“New and improved” is one of those hateful phrases which gets under my skin. It’s a contradiction in terms. If something is “new” then there wasn’t anything there to be improved upon. If it is “improved”, then it existed previously and cannot by definition be new.
It is this phrase which comes to mind with the Tory MPs who have defected from the Conservatives to UKIP. For both Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, the two defectors (At time of press – Ed), both seem to have taken up the mantle of political outsiders, a breath of fresh air to shake apart the Westminster establishment.
Which kind of ignores that, up until very recently, they were part of the very same establishment.
Watching the Clacton by-election campaign, the tendency of the media seems to be to treat Carswell as “new” to politics. That is, of course, nonsense. Carswell lost to Tony Blair in the 2001 general election, standing in Sedgefield. He worked for the Conservative Party, before winning Clacton at the 2005 general election and holding it in 2010. His former party has been the senior partner of government for almost the past five years.
Reckless, on the other hand, stood for the Conservatives in the Rochester & Strood seat (or its previous incarnations) in 2001 and 2005, before winning it on the third attempt in 2010.
So they are hardly political virgins, white as the driven snow.
In fact, most of UKIP — including dear leader Nigel Farrage — are refugees from the Tories, and indeed UKIP as a party is more Tory than the Tories, more Thatcherite than Thatcher. If residents in the two constituencies are suffering from Tory philosophy, turning said policies up to 11 seems a particularly pretty ill thought out solution.
The “change” which UKIP touts rings hollow, when said”change” offered to electorates in the two by-elections — sorry Roger Lord and and whoever was meant to be UKIP candidate for Rochester & Strood — very much seems to be the same people they had before. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
If “change” is really what voters want — and after four and a half years of Tory policy, who could blame them — then the real change is offered by Labour’s candidates. Tim Young and Naushabah Khan are actually different people to the previous MPs, for starters. They also represent a break in policy, different ideas, rather than the same policies and ideas pushed a little harder.
Personally, I think the choice is obvious. Swapping a blue tie for a purple-and-yellow one doesn’t change the fact that Carswell claimed over £50k of expenses between 2005 and 2008 to rent and furnish his second homes, and it doesn’t change the fact that Reckless was “too drunk” to vote on the budget. Though if you’re a Kipper, maybe dodgy expenses and not turning up to work are the sort of thing you look for in an elected representative.
Media hype is a powerful force, but a little common sense goes a long way — something which I’m sure UKIP would appreciate. Or, err, maybe not…