Dead Men Left

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More horrible thoughts about Robert Kilroy-Silk

An obscure little interview from the BBC website:

By any measure, New Yorker Dick Morris is that thing Americans love over everything else - a winner.

This is the man who, some pundits believe, was almost single-handedly responsible for Bill Clinton's sensational 1992 comeback victory...

Now he is back in London as the UK Independence Party's not-so-secret electoral weapon after returning from the Ukraine where he helped - you guessed it - opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Morris is an outsider. He's not lived in the UK before, he's not part of the political scheme of things, and he's advising a marginal, single-issue-plus party that has attracted some attention to itself of late.

I suspect, however, that this gives him a certain clarity about matters. Leave aside, for now, his claim to be a passionate Eurosceptic, and Morris has a sharp understanding of UK events:

So what is the big plan for the general election. How will he achieve the breakthrough?

"Look, we are not going to be forming the next government," he said. Neither does UKIP have to fight every seat.

As with the 2004 US presidential election, he says, the outcome will be decided by a small number of swing seats - just as he believes it will in Britain.

So, with limited resources, the aim is to target those seats and end the day with a significant group in the Commons...

"Anything can happen in the next general election. There is an inherent instability at the moment.

"Labour and the Tories have drawn the consensus so tightly and to the left there is room for another voice".

The minor parties likely to face a general election this year have settled on the same strategy: a recognition that the decay of the two-party system is geographically extremely uneven, and a concentration of resources to suit.

The only exception appears to be the Greens who, insofar as they have a national strategy, are sticking to their usual formula: stand everywhere, scrape a few more votes in, and wait for PR. It's something of a long-haul plan, and there's a significant risk sea-levels may rise catastrophically before they actually win any seats. (I'm being unfair: there are a few constituencies, like Brighton Pavillion, with well-organised Green Parties with good local records where they can certainly expect to get a very respectable vote.)

Seats disappearing to minor parties would have an impact far beyond the constituency boundaries. Even under the more likely scenario that a few constituencies change hands unexpectedly because of minor parties, the effects will be felt nationally. Depending on the national outcome, there is potential for a huge amount of political "leverage" from a relatively few seats.

Morris has evidently realised this, and intends to use it to push an anti-European agenda, shoving the Tory party firmly towards withdrawal from the EU.

He hints, however, at the far broader political space that has opened up where solid Tory and Labour support used to be. There's no doubt that the Lib Dems will benefit most immediately from this, but for as long as they alternately tail left and right, they will do little to shape that space. UKIP themselves, on Morris' account, are now more interested in pressurising the Tory Party than in shaping that space themselves.

That - heaven help us - is where Veritas comes in. UKIP achieved its breakthrough in the Euro elections last summer when it could move, temporarily, beyond single-issue status; Kilroy-Silk represented a raft of other opinions, largely obnoxious and centred on race and identity, that could then appeal to a wide existing sentiment. UKIP was not able to support a move beyond that point, transforming itself into a functioning political party and that, apart from rampant egomania, helps explain the split.

It also explains why (via Europhobia), the BNP are so keen on Veritas. Every time Kilroy-Silk appears on television, he adds a fresh gloss of "respectability" to an unpleasant political confection that claims multiculturalism has failed and the "English" identity must be protected as a result. How Kilroy-Silk himself fares in his chosen constituency of Ereworth is one thing; the knock-on effect for Nick Griffin in Keighley is the more serious.

Most unsettling of all, both Tories - predictably - and Labour - shamefully - have visibly responded to the rise of the fascist BNP, and Kilroy-Silk's brand of populist racism with a diluted brew of the same muck. The "leverage" over British politics enjoyed by both BNP and Kilroy-Silk is not, then, going to be broken from within the Labour Party; the best hope for the left is to apply a political lever of their own.