Overshadowed by the hype and hullabaloo of the VA and the Benghazi scandals in the USA, the UK held an election this week for local councilors, Mayors, and Members of the European Parliament over much of the country, including every borough in the Greater London area. While the MEP results will not be released until late Sunday, due to other Euro countries having elections today, the count is in for the local political figures.
In terms of control of borough councils, the Conservatives lost outright control of 12. This was in no way surprising, as local elections are frequently seen as a mini referendum on the party of the Prime Minister. What was surprising and something which is distinctly new on the political map is that Labour did not pick up those seats. 8 of the 12 losses went to No Overall Control, in which no party has a majority.
In terms of actual seats at the table nationally, the big story was UKIP - the UK Independence Party. They now hold 163 council seats nationwide, a gain of 128 over last year. Not exactly a seismic shift in the political landscape, but certainly a significant one. People are upset with the same old parties, the same old platitudes and the same old lies, and it is starting to show. That may sound familiar to our more conservative American readers. So, pour yourself a nice cup of TEA, and lets have a look at them.
UKIP is, much as the TEA party supposedly is, a single issue party which draws members from all walks of life and political affiliations. TEA Party is for smaller, leaner government. UKIP is for shutting the flow of legal and illegal immigration and getting the cold, dead hands of Brussels out of our affairs for good. Officially, at least.
Within the European Community, any citizen of any member nation can move to any other member state at whim and work. No visas, no work permits needed, just a valid ID card or passport. It is very much the same as in the USA, just with nations rather than states. In some ways it is a good thing, allowing free flow of goods, services and labor to whichever nation needs it. Free and open trade and freedom of movement is one of the cornerstones of a capitalist society. Yet it has it's problems.
As we are a collection of Nations, each nation has it's own internal systems for health, welfare, education, housing and taxation. All of which are legally extended to every member citizen without question. That puts a huge strain on the more successful economies within the EU, since people will invariably look out for number one and benefit hop. France and Germany get this particularly badly. The UK, oddly, not so much. The Poles, Lithuanians and Romanians (in my personal experience) do actually seem to come here to work instead of sponge off our relatively generous benefits.
They undercut local workers. Most of the ones we get are skilled tradespeople. Hard working, fast, and about half the price of our local tradespeople, so they crowd out independent contractors at an ever increasing pace. That builds resentment, fast.
Adding to the UKIP complexity is the UK's status as head of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth Citizens may have to jump through a few more hoops to enter the UK permanently, but the hoops are large and sit on the floor, not up in the air. Not much jumping is required. They arrive and set up shop - often literally - and of course, they preferentially employ their own family members in said shop. Don't get me wrong, they work damned hard in the main, but it's another squeeze on the British attempting to get a foothold on the ladder. Again, resentment crops up.
This resentment is what is powering UKIP and what will, unless the leadership is very cautious, will destroy them. Racism is an ugly word and an ugly thing, yet UKIP relies on it to an extent to get their message across. Much like the original aim of the TEA party has slowly but steadily been diluted by social conservatives, UKIP's message is being slowly but surely tarnished and damaged by what we charmingly call here the "Paki-bashers."