Hugo Swire: The truth behind by-election result
THE Eastleigh outcome was a disappointing result for the Conservative Party, there is no doubt about it. But it must be remembered that this was a by-election and, as at all by-elections, people protested against the Government.
This is why the vote share fell for both governing parties – Conservative and Liberal Democrat. For the Liberals the share fell by 14.5 per cent and for the Conservatives 14 per cent. Unless you are a political number cruncher, these figures are of little relevance, but Eastleigh was an important by-election; it gave a gentle hint about what is happening on the political landscape.
For example, the question for the Labour Party is why UKIP benefited, and not them. This shows the failure of Ed Miliband's claims to be a one-nation politician. This was a mid-term by-election when the two parties in Government are making some very tough decisions to fix the economy.
But Labour was not the beneficiary of the protest vote. In fact, Labour has barely improved on their rock-bottom showing in 2010, when their vote share halved.
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It's not just in Eastleigh where Labour has failed to make in-roads, just look what happened in London against Boris Johnson, in Bradford against George Galloway or in Scotland against Alex Salmond.
The winners of Eastleigh were of course UKIP, and the swing towards them came from all three parties, which indicate a large protest vote. I would dare to suggest that many people, who voted for the party, liked its sound and its fury but did not have a detailed sense of its policy platform.
Leaving the issue of EU exit aside, UKIP's inclination on the domestic front is simply to spend, spend, spend. It proposes to take 4.5 million people out of taxation altogether by establishing a flat-rate income tax with a threshold set at the minimum wage. All green taxes would be abolished, in principle, as global warming is, says UKIP, "unproven". Taxes on small businesses should be cut and Employers' National Insurance abolished. There must be no cuts to police numbers and twice as many prison places as there are now. Tuition fees should be scrapped and student grants restored. Defence spending increased. When you ask them how this is all going to be paid for we get the standard line of political rascals: Cut red tape and quangos. Mr Farage is one of those rare political dynamos that come along every now and then in politics. But he is not the party. At some point those leaning towards UKIP need to take a closer look at the lower ranks.
As Conservatives, we undoubtedly have a problem with the rise of UKIP as it splits our vote; because of Britian's electoral geography, Mr Miliband can become prime minister on the back of 35 per cent of the national vote if the right is divided. It means UKIP in effect would let in a pro-Europe party, which could even go into coalition with another pro-Europe party, The Lib Dems, which cannot be their intention.
David Cameron has said his party will not lurch to the right to counter UKIP. He is confident that in the General Election he can win back electors like those in Eastleigh by showing he's delivering for everyone who works hard and wants to get on.
Slow but steady progress in getting Britain back onto its feet.