Philip Johnston (no relation, to my knowledge) in this morning’s Telegraph claims that the Euro election results were people saying ‘a plague on both your houses’ to the Tories and Labour. It might be worth pointing out to users of this tired Shakespearianism that the same electors at the same time, voted the Conservatives overwhelmingly into control of just about all of the shire counties. This is perhaps a better guide to the likely outcome of a General Election than the Euro-result which uses the List system.
Being a learned Telegraph man, I would have expected him to point out how electoral systems have effects on voter behaviour and how a national list system distorts the political system in favour of minor, fringe or extremist parties.
To fight the Euros, a party can establish itself as nationally significant by getting a mere 70-odd candidates from an electorate of 40 million plus. No big deal – especially when the List System means that it doesn’t matter if no-one has ever heard of any of them before. They get a free post so they can get their leaflets into every house or flat without having to go to the immense trouble of setting up and maintaining a large volunteer base to deliver them or establish a publicly visible candidate selection process. Their absence on the ground during the election locally was a good indication of their real level of support.
In some instances the press and TV give them loads of free publicity. Ukip is a case in point, very much so. The Telegraph and the broadcast media were strangely silent about the antics of many of the ‘Ukip 12′ of 2004 while saturating the papers and airwaves for three weeks non-stop – with the biggest headlines I have ever seen the Telegraph use – about (mainly) Labour and Tory MPs’ expenses. Mr. J is rather coy about that this morning too.
Well, I hope Mr. J and his friends are satisfied with the outcome. I have no doubt that his owners are. I write as a loyal Telegraph reader since 1961. Their expenses campaign, timed and drawn out as it was, has done a wonderful resurrection job on Ukip and paved the path to Brussels of Mr. Griffin and his chum in Yorkshire. As Nigel Farage asked last night,’who could have believed this could happen even five weeks ago?’ Who indeed!