From Margate to Montrose, it’s time for Labour to raise our game

by Jonathan Todd

Tony Stockwell, the psychic medium, performs at Margate Winter Gardens on 11 September. Perhaps he’ll reveal whether Nigel Farage, rumoured to be considering standing for parliament locally, will become South Thanet’s MP. Tracey Emin, a renowned daughter of Planet Thanet, “won’t let that happen,” retorted my wife.

Emin, like Johnny Depp, is older than Farage. She is, though, a hipper figure. This didn’t stop her, like South Thanet, voting Tory in 2010. But she thinks Margaret Thatcher “should be tried for crimes against humanity”.

The north of England and Scotland might agree with her about this. This continues to frustrate Tory recovery in the north, where more people agree with the Tories than vote for them. Due to the negative perceptions that Thatcher created and which persist.

As they do in Scotland, where swathes of the population have convinced themselves that UK government can offer only Thatcherism or Thatcherism lite. Labour for Independence “consists of members, voters, supporters, former voters who felt the party left them not the other way around”. Only in an independent Scotland, they contend, can they recover their party.

The voters of South Thanet also feel they’ve lost something. “They may not be able to pinpoint what it is,” Laura Sandys, the incumbent MP, recently told The New Statesman. “But they don’t think they’re getting it back.”

Whatever Farage may promise to recover for these people, he’ll do so on the basis of an affinity with Thatcher. Jonathan Aitken, her unofficial biographer, “cannot believe that a young Margaret Thatcher leaving Oxford today would join the Conservative Party led by David Cameron. I think she’d come and get involved in UKIP.”

While, to many Scots, Cameron personifies what they see as the perpetual Thatcherism of the UK, he’s a pale shadow of the 1980s prime minister, according to her greatest admirers. Another paradox is that Farage is supposedly the keeper of Thatcher’s flame and a challenger to Labour in the north, where she remains a drag on Tory support.

I spotted only one UKIP poster this weekend in Margate. In the pub where I watched Chelsea beat Liverpool, a skin-headed man loudly berated Chelsea’s Demba Ba as an “effing Arab” for the Muslim prayer celebration that followed his goal. Maybe this is the kind of angry, culturally-threatened type that UKIP appeals to. Otherwise Margate didn’t strike me as being atop the crest of UKIP’s wave.

Indeed, on our third annual visit, the built environment communicated continued improvement, rather than the pessimism that UKIP incubate and feed upon. The Sands Hotel, for example, has arrived since our last visit. Obviously, visitors can enjoy its 60s style, sea views and local food, while locals might lament that the 60s have past and are not returning. Nonetheless, I can’t look at the Sands Hotel and conclude that everyone in Margate is “left behind“, as Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford describe those most likely to vote UKIP.

The one poster for UKIP in Margate is one more than I’ve seen for any party in my London neighbourhood recently. No party has knocked on my door or telephoned me to canvass my support in the European elections. No literature has dropped through our letterbox, setting out distinctive EU policies.

The leaderships of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories all say that they want to stay in the EU. They all maintain that this is vitally important. Yet the European elections are only three weeks away and none of them seem to want to communicate anything about them to me.

If they don’t take these elections seriously, treating them like an appendage to the local elections at best, is it any surprise that so many voters intend to vote for a party as lacking in seriousness as UKIP?

UKIP, like the SNP, are terrible simplifiers. “It is the facts of interdependence,” Roger Liddle notes in his new book, “not the existence of the EU, that limit our sovereignty.” Instead of embracing the leverage over this globalised interdependence enabled by the EU, UKIP peddle the delusion that globalisation’s clock can be turned back.

This delusion is comforting for those left behind by forces that Thatcher did as much as anyone else to unleash. But, by resting upon a delusion, this comfort is a cruelty. A terrible simplification of a more complicated world.

Labour has a responsibility to build hope grounded not in delusions but in realities. The Tories remain handicapped in this task by the associations attached to the leader that they elected nearly 40 years ago. So keen was she to smash the post-war consensus that the divisions she worked still fester.

The Tories may be unable to heal them but, particularly when they imperil the existence of the UK and our membership of the EU, Labour must do. Yet Alex Massie laments that if Ed Miliband is the Union’s saviour then the Union is doomed. And if the UK’s membership of the EU comes to depend on Labour, judging by our to date less than gripping European campaign, then we won’t need Tony Stockwell to tell us how this will end up. From Margate to Montrose, it’s time for Labour to raise our game.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut   

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5 Responses to “From Margate to Montrose, it’s time for Labour to raise our game”

  1. uglyfatbloke says:

    Not convinced that Massie is right about Miliband. If he can offer something more practical than Better Together it’s perfectly possible for Labour to recover in Scotland. The tories in Scotland? Not so much. It’s not simply about Thatcher either. She is still seen as a scary monster, but the wider issue is that the tories are seen – partly because of her, partly because of Cameron and others – as an English nationalist party. Hard to argue that they are not.

  2. Ex labour says:

    It’s interesting that Labour apparatchiks now vilify UKIP. When they were seen as dragging down Tory support we heard nothing from the Labour Party but now al the polls are pointing to UKIP overtaking Labour then we see this kind of blog. It tries desperately to portray UKIP supporters as racists and other blogs have gone much further.
    The truth is that UKIP have touched a nerve or many nerves in the general population. Take immigration where Labours open door policy and failure to show any remorse for this betrayal has in fact damaged and badly affected the traditional Labour voter. Labours stance on benefits in general and and foreign claimants in particular is also revealing.
    Until the political elite recognise that they are responsible for the rise of UKIP there will be no stopping them. Just trying to smear them will no suffice.

  3. uglyfatbloke says:

    Just because they have touched a nerve does n’t mean that they are n’t racist.

  4. Ex labour says:


    Every party and every walk of life has its fringe members. The problem is the political elite, particularly Siliband and Labour do not want any debate on any embarrassing issue, so they cry racist, a typical tactic of the left to shut it down.

    I read somewhere a few months ago there were something like 12000 foreign criminals in our jails, which we can’t deport due to the ECHR rulings and it was estimated that there are at least 200 murders from foreign parts, roaming free around our streets.

    Is it racist to point this out ? Is this an acceptable situation for you?

    UKIP are the only ones prepared to confront issues such as this and by that I mean border controls. The Tories talk tough but don’t do anything, the LieDems think everything is rosey and Labour avoid the issue.

  5. Robin Howard says:

    My prediction would be that the General Election will be won by Labour but without an overall majority. The electorate did not vote Labour last time because they could not tolerate Gordon Brown. There are now two parties of protest against Tory and Labour – Lib-Dems and Ukip. When Labour wins the General Election, they should not go into coalition with any other party. They should consult on an economically planned strategy and then there should be free parliamentary votes on all other policies. David Cameron is accepted, but his party is not. The bedroom fiasco proved that. Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg seem to want to bow to Europe with the latter seemingly promoting Federalisation.

    Cameron, Clegg and Miliband look and act like elitists fearful of saying what they think and divorced from electoral thought. Cameron has tried but his party projects a fearful elitism. Clegg is a ‘do goody’, who has now lost the main protest vote, he should not have gone into coalition. Some members of his party pursue a fanatically emotive green policy while certain treasury members look and behave like Tories. Miliband is still being ‘unnatural’ and communicating an elitist persona even though he did strike a chord with the energy bills. His style is still of the mandarin rather than the egalitarian.

    To the voting population it seems as if London has become a country rather than the City. The lower paid will soon be unable to live and exist in the capitol. Soon, the standard of living there will be so high that only people earning £50k a year will be accommodated. The unfortunate elitist personality traits emanating from the three above place them in the same category – rulers of London. This is how the electorate see them, a small elect band ruling from London. This is also the claims of Scottish Nationalism.

    Ukip have hit the pulse of some of the thoughts of British citizens’ – Why is this small island being invaded by large numbers of EU members? Why can’t we defend our own borders? This is not racist; this is common sense. Are America, South Africa, and Australia racist? They all have a border policy. No, it is all due to 9 years of Tony Blair’s dream of a Federal Europe. Of course, we should allow people to come and work in Britain if there are jobs.

    The time has now arrived when the 3 party frontrunners should introspectively study themselves and their parties in search of the real truth beyond politics.

    Margate is now host to 3000 plus immigrants whom many will not find work in this area.
    Information from the 2001 national population census and other sources confirm the severity of deprivation across a wide range of indicators for Cliftonville West and Margate Central wards. Key illustrative points are set out below. These wards have a significantly high proportion of:
    • economically active people who are unemployed (the highest rate in Thanet and double Thanet’s overall rate)
    • male job seeker’s allowance claimant rate (almost triple the Thanet rate)
    • people of working age with limiting long term illness (nearly double the Thanet rate)
    • hospital admissions due to alcohol/drugs (over five times the County average). Thanet has the second highest number of alcohol attributable hospital admissions in the South East with over 850 admissions per 100,000 population – more than 60% above the national average.
    • shared dwellings (Cliftonville West has highest rate at over four times the Thanet average)
    • children in households with no earner (Margate Central has the highest rate in Thanet)
    • residents who are lone parents (almost double the KCC ward average).
    • crime rates. (These wards accounted for 12% & 16% of all recorded crime in Thanet but only contain 5.5% and 3.8% of Thanet’s population).

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