Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Talking about UKIP on the doorstep...

Out campaigning during the recent Rotherham by-election I, and many other Labour activists, encountered first-hand the rise in support for UKIP; I’ve met the occasional UKIP supporter here and there on the doorstep, but nothing like the number I was meeting here. According to a recent ComRes poll, most of UKIP support is not coming from those who voted Labour in 2010, and anecdotally I’d be inclined to agree.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that there are former Labour voters who are turning to UKIP; enough that Labour activists need to know what to say to them on the doorstep. And, I think, there’s still a lack of understanding about UKIP policies and what UKIP really stands for; and there is so much there for us to attack.

Because these voters might support UKIPs policies on the EU and immigration – and of course there are serious issues there we need to address – but I doubt that Labour/UKIP swing voters support grammar schools (or a voucher system for schools, for that matter), or increased privatisation of the NHS, or a 20% flat tax and the resulting cuts to public services. UKIP’s far right economic policies are quite, well, right wing, and if the person you’re talking to is a libertarian then fine; not much you’re going to be able to do about that.

But to those who are supporting UKIP because of their immigration/EU stance, or as a protest vote, Labour activists need to start talking about what else UKIP stands for; the libertarian-leaning, free market party is far from on the side of the working class (or, you know, most people).

Additionally, there’s the interesting (and admittedly, impressive) issue of UKIP getting former none-voters to vote; these voters most likely part of Labour’s target demographic, but where Labour has failed to get them out to the ballot box. And although I may not be thrilled at their party preference, it is good that these people are engaging with the political process. And we should be talking to them. Because now they are engaged, hopefully, they’ll be more inclined to talk us, both about what UKIP really stands for (because, like the former Labour voter, I’d hazard a guess that they wouldn’t be a fan of large chunks of UKIP’s policy program) and about what Labour stands for, and what Labour can offer them in government.

None of this is to dismiss the reasons people are turning to UKIP; as well as the issues of the EU and immigrations there’s, of course, a general disenchantment with mainstream politics and politicians, and we should take seriously how we address these issues.

But we must also start properly attacking UKIP’s dangerous economic policies; and get our activists talking about them to voters who are unlikely to support such policies if they are made aware of them.  

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