Another weekend, another campaign session in Blenheim Park ward.
Blenheim Park isn’t a small ward, which means there’s a lot of ground to cover between now and 7th May. I haven’t so far seen much evidence of campaigning by the other parties — the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and UKIP all have reason to look hopefully at Blenheim — but I have to assume that they are at work.
The above UKIP leaflet, for example, was spotted in the ward. I’ve seen it before: one has come through my own door. What marks it out for me is the lack of a) local relevance, and b) actual content.
I have encountered UKIP voters in Blenheim Park. I’ve also encountered a smattering of Tories, a single disaffected Lib Dem, and a reasonable helping of Labour voters. (Not a Green to be found, so far -Ed) Far and away in the lead, though, are the unsures.
I encountered one gentlemen yesterday who told me that he was planning to vote for UKIP. The reason he gave, when I asked, was immigration. Not, I would guess, an altogether unusual stance.
But when, rather than wishing him a nice weekend and walking on, I engaged with him on the specific issues he thought salient, it quickly became apparent that what was troubling him was not immigration.
He was worried about his wages being pushed down, as his cost of living went up. He was worried about how his daughter would survive, when her part-time wages went almost entirely on childcare and she couldn’t find the full-time work she wanted. His concerns were economic, and as I pointed out were a product of a broken system which exploits immigrant labour as much as British.
When I started to list Labour policies to combat this — promoting a living wage, protection for renters, free childcare — he agreed with all of them, admitting that he had no real problem with immigration, he just wanted a country which would work better for him and his family.
Maybe I changed his mind about voting UKIP, maybe I didn’t. The point I want to make is that although UKIP make a big noise about being in touch with what the British public think, they don’t have any solutions to the actual problems. They don’t even know what the actual problems are, preferring to blame a spectre of the “other”, in the form of immigration.
The content-free leaflet above exemplifies that position. “Don’t worry,” it seems to say, “That nice bloke Nigel from the pub will sort everything out.” How? It doesn’t say. He doesn’t know.
Easy answers are ten a penny. They are also most often wrong. I believe that Labour have the best answers for Britain’s future, and I think that the only way to beat UKIP at the deeply dishonest game they play is to persuade people. If that has to be done, as I suspect it person by person, door by door, then we — I — had better get knocking.