Bill Carmichael: Is this the death of mainstream parties?

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DO you feel that your political representatives understand your views, share your concerns about the state of modern Britain and are responsive enough to try to do something about it?

If the answer is a resounding “no”, then join the club because there are millions who feel exactly the same way.

And two fascinating surveys out this week suggest the malaise is growing worse, with hard evidence of an increasing “disconnect” between the left-liberal elite who rule our lives and the views of ordinary people.

The British Social Attitudes Survey, for example, shows a significant hardening in public opinion over immigration, largely because the political classes have entirely ignored people’s legitimate concerns.

Decades of open door immigration policies have changed Britain profoundly, with 2.5 million more foreign-born residents here than 10 years ago.

As far as our political masters are concerned this is a good thing – they can employ nannies and cleaners on poverty wages, while patting themselves on the back for their unbounded compassion and tolerance.

But for people at the bottom of the pile the impact has been disastrous, with lower wages and increased competition for housing, health services and education.

If you offer people from around the world free stuff if they come to Britain, don’t be surprised if local people are shoved aside in the stampede of newcomers.

But any ordinary citizens who dared voice even the merest whisper of concern about these rapid and unprecedented changes were greeted by our politicians jumping up and down shrieking “racist, bigot, fascist!” Is it any wonder that people are turning to Ukip in droves, particularly in working class areas?

As the survey warned: “Policy-makers and the interest groups they deal with regularly tend to be drawn heavily from the liberal end of the spectrum, creating a potential for disconnect and distrust between a more liberal political class which accepts immigration and an electorate among whom many find it intensely threatening.”

And if you’ve ever watched some privileged twerp of a wet-behind-the-ears MP mouthing fashionable platitudes and wondered “where the hell do they find these people?” – now we know.

Research by The Guardian this week showed that parliamentary candidates are increasingly being drawn from a remarkably narrow section of society contained in the Westminster bubble.

Fewer MPs are being drawn from the communities they seek to represent, and experience of the real world outside politics is becoming increasingly rare.

Labour is the worst offender. The survey found that half of Labour’s candidates selected to fight in marginal seats at the next election have links to Westminster as former special advisers, party workers, researchers or lobbyists.

Labour is now a party of the posh, metropolitan elite.

Are we witnessing a death of the mainstream parties? In 1951 Labour and Conservatives between them attracted 97 per cent of voters. Today either would be delighted with a third of the vote.

What is clear is that when political parties cease to reflect the views of voters they die. The political upheaval we witnessed in May 2014 may only be the start of it.

MP’s clanger

Funniest story of the week concerned Labour MP Helen Goodman who was asked to open a fair in the small village of Ingleton in her County Durham constituency.

She, or perhaps her researcher, diligently did her homework beforehand, boning up on interesting facts about Ingleton she could drop into her speech to impress potential voters with her extensive local knowledge.

So when the day came the MP was 
able to wax lyrical about Ingleton’s beautiful waterfalls and its deep caves and the area’s connections with Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This was all news to the locals who looked on in bafflement. Then the penny dropped – the MP had confused the Ingleton in Durham with the village of the same name in the Yorkshire Dales, 70 miles away.

Oops! Easily done I suppose if you don’t know the area – and the local MP clearly does not.