Lessons from the Sleaford by-election

It is hardly surprising that an area which voted heavily ‘leave’ in the EU referendum, should give UKIP the second place in last Thursday’s Sleaford by-election, but a closer look at the figures show that all parties except the Lib Dems actually polled fewer votes than in May 2015, even the ‘overwhelmingly’ winning Conservatives. The loudest, clearest message is that voters no longer take democracy seriously.

Given that the generally agreed winning ‘Leave’ slogan in the EU Referendum was ‘Take back control’ (of our borders), we need to look at the Lib Dem stance on immigration. I would summarise it as ‘In favour of skilled immigrants, but not favouring open borders the way Labour and the Greens do’. Could that account for a switch from Labour to Lib Dem, since Labour were the heaviest losers? Is Corbyn to blame? That is what those who tried, and still want to get rid of Corbyn would say. But the bookies consistently place him as the likeliest next Prime Minister! Remember, like Trump, he is the rebel against the neoliberal minions. Like Trump, he is offering ecologically unrealistic economic regeneration to post industrial areas. Corbyn supporters in Sleaford would still think of the Lib Dems or UKIP as the best hope for a dramatic upset.

I do believe that there is a grain of truth in the view that concern over immigration is increasing, and that therefore welcoming immigrants is becoming an electoral liability. This is of course not related, as it should be, to facts. Immigrants do benefit our economy. What should be troubling is the fact that prosperous countries are leaching the brightest and best from impoverished countries, but this does not seem to figure much in the debate.

But missing from this by-election, as ever is the global environment. I doubt whether voters were even aware of the massive shift of cold air from the Arctic Ocean to Siberia, with the possibility that runaway climate change will start next Spring due to open water where there should be thick ice until August. I am willing to bet that nobody campaigned on it.

In my reservations about the anti-Tory ‘Progressive Alliance’, I have suggested that the Green Party should be targetting safe Conservative seats where the candidate is known to be a climate sceptic. My attempts to ascertain the new MP’s views on climate change have drawn a blank. She has apparently campaigned largely on local issues. Her attitude to Brexit is not even reported, bearing in mind this is why the sitting MP resigned. So it is not clear whether Sleaford would be a good place to start, but my experience is that it is in the Tory heartlands where people are most likely to worry about risks to the ecosphere, and a Green candidate could target this government’s record.

Oh yes, on immigration. I have covered in a previous blog how an international Basic Income principle could help potential migrants NOT to uproot themselves. That should interest Sleaford when they realize that those negotiating Brexit will sacrifice border control for access to the Single Market.

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