Several years ago, I had the immense privilege of being
selected as the Conservative general election candidate for Rotherham. The
seat, of course, was held at the time by Denis MacShane, notorious for his EU
logoed socks if not yet for already running a “think tank” next to his
Dr MacShane (his PhD was in international economics if not
accountancy) had a peculiar reaction to my selection. Indeed, it was
staggeringly brazen. Of all things, he criticised the association for delays in
the selection process, claiming directly to the local press that the absence of
a Conservative candidate had left the BNP with a free ride.
It was a calculated remark as poisoned as it was absurd. The
election results indeed confirmed the existence of a significant BNP vote in
the area. But what canvassing quickly proved, however, was that the greater
part of this support came from traditional Labour voters. Why? Because the
local Labour party took them for granted. I found estates that hadn’t seen a
Labour canvasser in decades. These tended to be predominantly white working
People explained they felt that Blair’s government nationally
simply wasn’t interested in their concerns, in coming up a coherent immigration
policy or even explaining what the policy was. Nobody wanted to listen to this
locally either. So now as voters they intended to send a message. They weren’t
going to vote for me as I personally had closed down all the coal mines,
despite being around fourteen at the time. That left using the BNP vote as a
post-it message to Labour.
I suspect this story about the adoption scandal in Rotherham
forms a part of this broader narrative. It was a decision by Rotherham Council
of incredible insensitivity, ignorance and irrationality. But it is perhaps
telling of the thinking within Labour’s ivory tower, as doddery as Keppel’s
Column down the road. The party preferred to dodge debate and threaten to empty
chair hustings with the extremists, and then passed the blame on others when
the fingers in ears policy failed. Even Dr MacShane’s own resignation statement
astonishingly focused on fingering the BNP as being to blame for his demise.
It looks then almost as if the attack on UKIP is an attack
by proxy, and an ignorant one at that. The council is acting like the spoilt
child who, once caught, kicks the family pet. It is nothing to do with the absurd
allegations about UKIP and everything about Labour’s own pangs of guilt.
People deserve better both from their local council and from
their representatives. At least this week, the people of Rotherham have an
opportunity to break with a dodgy past, in more ways than one.