Blogs by Don Flynn
Just as Clacton recedes into memory so Rochester looms up as the next thing to get excited about. It brings with it the dreadful thought that the entire run-up to the 2015 general election will be made up of a series by-elections provoked by Tory defections to the UKIP insurgents, ensuring a steady draft of oxygen to keep the embers of anti-Europeanism glowing fresh and bright for months to come.
What will this mean for the public conversation on immigration policy? Funnily enough their historic victory in the Essex seaside town earlier in the month could open up some interesting tensions even within UKIP’s seemingly intransigent ranks. The victorious defector from the Conservatives, Douglas Carswell, seems to have been at pains to make the point that strident anti-immigration is not really his bag during his interview in the Guardian last week.
The crisis on the centre-right of UK politics, provoked by the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, ratcheted up another notch last week. David Cameron pledged to have ‘one last go’ at limiting the right of citizens to free movement within the EU.
Mr Cameron made the promise during a visit to Kent, where local politics is gearing itself for a by-election in the Rochester and Strood constituency next month. The contest was triggered by the defection of Tory MP Mark Reckless to UKIP at the beginning of October.
The big news of last week was of course UKIP’s performance in the Clacton and Heywood and Middleton. Victory in one and a close second in the other has increased the sense that the party best known for its anti-Europe and immigration stances is a serious force which could hold the balance of power in Parliament after the general election due in May 2015.
But after a taking advantage of the opportunity to chat with activist folk at the Labour and Tory events during the past week there seems to be some grounds for hoping that the main parties will not be overly tempted to be led onto the terrain where UKIP seems to have planted itself. There’s a consensus, at least at the more liberal ends of both Labour and the Conservatives, that tough talk on immigration will only remind voters of what they perceive as the failures of two successive governments, and of the fact that an alternative on the hard right is there for anyone wanting to make that choice....
There’s an oft-told fable about the sparrow, frozen on a cold winters day, who tumbles in a dead faint from a high up tree branch. Fortunately its fall is broken as it drops into a soft, newly excreted cow-pat.