In light of UKIP leader Nigel Farage being announced as ‘Briton of the Year’ by The Times newspaper, it seems increasingly unfathomable to identify an accolade the man has not achieved. Whilst his place in UKIP and indeed British political folklore is assured, there is one substantial achievement yet to be accomplished: a Labour defection. As blockbuster material as the defections of Messrs Carswell and Reckless were this year, they nevertheless came from the same Conservative party as well as identifying as amongst the most rebellious backbenchers in the thorn of Cameron’s side.
Labour’s Simon Danczuk, in my personal view, is practically tailor made for UKIP. I happen to live in a neighbouring constituency to that of Mr Danczuk’s Rochdale (Oldham East & Saddleworth), and have heard largely positive reviews, whereas where I live many of those I live amongst do not even know our MP’s name. Whilst Danczuk proclaims himself to be “solidly Labour”, he is also brutally honest, a quality one would contend to aid in explaining Danczuk’s embedment on the Labour backbench. He is also on record as attacking his party on issues ranging from the choice of current leader and his suitability, to the reluctance of Labour to discuss the now electorally fundamental issue of immigration, the audacity of which was confirmed by the recently leaked Labour document ‘Campaigning Against UKIP’.
Imagine my reaction then, along with several others, when Danczuk and Farage were pictured only last week engaged in a positively jovial pint or two dwn in London. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and one cannot begin to imagine Mr Miliband engaging in such activity, much less Mr Danczuk’s enthusiasm to accompany him. It was inevitable then, courtesy of the press that Danczuk would come to not only justify his fling with Farage, but go even further in divulging his true opinions on certain matters, many of which will be anathema to the typical Labour voter.
He declared Farage as “probably the most successful politician of 2014”. As seen above, this is a sentiment both shared and vindicated by those at The Times, typically acknowledged as a Tory newspaper if anything. When one opinion is shared by those at opposite ends of the political spectrum as seen here, how can one seek to rebut? There are many individuals, both in The Times newspaper membership and online media altogether who still wish to draw comparisons between Farage and Hitler (yawn/sigh), but what this crucially demonstrates is that Danczuk is prepared to express an opinion that will inevitably be met with controversy. The only other Labour figure truly prepared to do so is the notorious Diane Abbot, and her outbursts are controversial for all the wrong reasons, hence her subsequent relegation to the backbench. When one thinks of Farage and others in UKIP, whether rightly or wrongly, above all what is rife in UKIP is individuals willing to speak their mind, and therefore Danczuk fulfils this pre-requisite with aplomb.
Compare this to his attitude towards his own leader, something which the majority of the electorate, both tribally Labour, undecided and opponents appear to be united on. Danczuk is quoted as deeming Miliband’s cost of living campaign, and a central one at that, as “nearing its sell-by date”. In response to the electoral coronary seen in Heywood & Middleton (within the metropolitan borough of Rochdale), Miliband was urged as “needing to get out more”. The concept that Miliband could well be Prime Minister next year is contemptible to even his own MPs, and this will surely be evident at the ballot box, as shown in both by-elections in Clacton as well as Rochester & Strood.
Outside of those tribally Labour, for example Gillian Duffy, who continues to vote Labour despite being called a bigot by Gordon Brown and thus is beyond conversion (yet still conceding Labour need a charismatic figure like Farage), the haemorrhage of Labour voters to UKIP is already in full flow. YouGov’s Peter Kellner has confirmed that the myth of UKIP only taking Tory votes really is just that, now standing at 6 Labour votes for every 9 Tory votes, all that is left is for someone within the House of Commons to follow a substantial amount of those making the transition from red to purple.
Indeed, if Danczuk could not have been clearer, his true view of his own leader is encapsulated by the following quote: “He’s not a personality and he needs to recognise this, and stop pursuing a suicidal strategy.”
With respect to immigration, the policy towards which is almost certainly the single biggest failure of the Labour Party and has forever tarnished its legacy, Danczuk shows no mercy here either.
The topic itself is “outside the Labour’s comfort zone”, whilst calling upon his experiences with the biggest immigration caseload in the North West. This places him outside of those who comprise the “Hampstead Heath Politics” contingent, a term he has himself coined for those driven towards the metropolitan political elite found in north London.
In short, he is dealing with real issues seen in the north of the country, real Labour heartland that those in London, of Emily Thornberry’s ilk cannot truly comprehend.
There is a serious school of thought now since the Blair days that Labour has very much become a middle class party, and thus a fairly affluent north London demographic seen in the Labour frontbench would support this. It would also of course run counter to that of Danczuk’s: non-Oxbridge, northern, and having left education earlier than most to pursue factory work, before returning to education as a mature student – a profile many would class as “true Labour”, and one need not think too hard about where much of this demographics’ vote is headed instead.
Indeed, in the book ‘Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box’, Dr Matthew Goodwin asserts that it is now UKIP as the party with the disproportionately working class base, not seen since the considerably left leaning regime of Michael Foot in the early 1980’s (interestingly the next worst rated leader Miliband beat to last place in approval polling released earlier this year).
In conclusion, it certainly appears as though the very tribalism alluded to throughout this piece will prove crucial to the path taken by Danczuk. It certainly appears that for now, especially given the timing of this meeting with Farage (outside the period that a by-election can be called), Danczuk will stay with Labour. This is possibly due to a hope for change at the top of the Labour hierarchy that simply will not come, at least any time in the near future. However, if so it will prove a pyrrhic victory for Labour; whilst keeping an MP, it is one who has a majority of less than 900 (surely a cynical factor in deciding a switch to UKIP) and one who is prepared to continually and publicly denounce the current powers that be in the Labour Party – the North London elite that Miliband both epitomises and leads – oh how different his surroundings would be if he added a considerable dash of blue to his red to turn purple – and just how hailed his arrival would be by UKIP.
By Nicholas Godleman, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.