What the local election results say about the state of British politics

On Friday 3rd of May, the results of the local elections in Britain were announced. Political commentators were predicting that the Conservatives would lose a substantial number of councillors, Labour would gain some and UKIP would also do fairly well. The first two predictions came out correct; however the third one was wrong. UKIP did not do just fairly well, they did extraordinary well, considering that only not so long ago David Cameron was calling UKIP supporters “loonies” and “fruitcakes.” So what do these results tell us?

First of all it is imperative to mention that the turnout for these elections was exceptionally low, averaging around 34%, with some wards reaching as low as 27%. The turnout is similar to the local elections in 2012 (31.3%), though substantially lower than in 2011 (42.6%). In general, this indicates that the British public is still feeling rather apathetic towards local politics. It is difficult to pin point the exact reason for this. Perhaps the people feel that these elections simply do not matter, i.e. regardless of who is the councillor, nothing is going to change locally. The low turnout could simply mean that many are just not that interested in local politics and just want to get on with their own lives. Or perhaps, people have completely lost their trust in the political system in Britain. In fact, the rise of UKIP demonstrates that the vast number of people no longer trusts the three main parties (Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) to do a decent job.

This moment has been approaching for quite some time. Ever since the coalition government was elected in 2010, the public has been getting more and more despondent with the so called establishment. The general view is that politicians do not represent the people, but their own respective parties. Additionally it is suggested that politicians do not particularly care about policies and making lives better for the British people. They only care about being re-elected and climbing up the ladder of their political careers. This claim can be exemplified by the fact that many Members of Parliament are so called “career politicians”, i.e., they have come into politics without any proper life experience in any other job sector. Matters are made worse by the fact that politicians seem to be listening more to big corporations and banks than listening to people. Once again this is proven by the fact that banks were bailed out after the 2008 financial crash with taxpayers money (despite the banks being responsible for the crash), yet currently it is the taxpayer who is suffering financially during the austerity measures, whilst the bankers and financiers continue to receive large banker bonuses. Ultimately, the British public believe that the majority of politicians are not on their side.

This is where UKIP comes in. UKIP are a fresh party that seems to speak to the average man and woman on the street. UKIP has been able to come across as a party that understands the concern of the everyday individual and is willing to work hard to achieve a better standard of living for the British people. Indeed UKIP have played an excellent game of tapping into the issues that matter currently to the public: immigration, foreign aid and Europe. UKIP have taken a strong stance on each one of these issues: they want to close the UK borders to immigrants, they want to cut the aid budget and they want to leave the European Union. It can be argued that some, if not all of these suggestions are simply absurd and actually would not lead improvements here in Britain. However the vast majority of the public seems to think that these 3 policies put forward by UKIP are the right thing to do and this has therefore allowed UKIP to grow dramatically in popularity.

One can make up their own opinion on UKIP policies’, but the bigger picture is this: the British public have lost all hope in the political system in the UK and the only people who can be blamed for this are the politicians themselves. For years, the establishment has used spin doctors, the media and fancy language to pull the wool over the public eyes. This is no longer the case. For better or worse, dramatic change is currently happening to the British political system. It will be fascinating to observe how the politicians will react. Will they continue to assume that the public are easy to manipulate, allowing smaller parties like UKIP to continue to tap into the mainstream, or will the politicians respond by finally taking the British public seriously. Perhaps the time leading up to the 2015 General Election and the results of this election will shed more light on this question.

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Categories: Global Political Insight

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