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A Message for Ukip Voters

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Apparently Britain's mainstream political parties aren't quite sure how to deal with Nigel Farage and his rapidly-growing band of Ukip insurgents. Perhaps I can help.

Here, free of charge, is a suggested outline for all future speeches to be delivered by mainstream party politicians between now and next year's general election - and it'll work equally well, whichever party they represent:

"Yes, dear voters, you are right. We have failed you. Your elected representatives have failed to protect you and your families from a catastrophic financial and economic melt-down; we have failed to ensure that your children have a reasonable chance of a secure future; and we have failed to demonstrate the sort of moral probity that you are entitled to expect when you entrust us with your vote.

"So yes, you are right to be angry. You are right to want to punish us in the only way open to you, by transferring your support to the one party that you believe represents what you most yearn for: a fresh start with new faces and new ideas, expressed in a language you can understand. (And no, I won't call you a racist - because I've never believed that insulting voters is a good way of winning their support.)

"You are right to resent the way Tony Blair took this country to war in Iraq (with Tory support) on what we now know was a false prospectus, and then refused to accept - still refuses to accept - that he was responsible for the biggest foreign policy mistake in British political history since Suez in 1956. You are also right to resent the way that he and Gordon Brown allowed City bankers (again, with Tory support) to write their own regulations so that they enriched themselves beyond anything that could be regarded as reasonable and then blithely shrug their shoulders when the whole shebang came crashing down.

"I'm going to do something that politicians aren't meant to do - I'm going to be honest with you. I entirely understand why you don't trust David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg: like you, I marvel at how these privately-educated posh boys can claim that their "austerity" policies affect everyone, when quite plainly they have no effect at all on them or their wealthy friends.

"Incidentally, on the subject of honesty, how often have you heard Nigel Farage refer to his own background, as a privately-educated former City stockbroker? Come to that, how often have you heard him admit, as he did five years ago, that he has taken an estimated £2m in expenses and allowances since being elected as a member of the European parliament?

"I perfectly understand why you intend to cast a kick-up-the-backside vote in three weeks' time. Perhaps in the past, you would have voted for the Lib Dems, but that's not exactly a protest vote option now, is it? So where does your vote go to deliver a bloody nose? The Green party? Whatever happened to the Green party?

"So vote UKIP if you must in the local and European elections on 22 May. But then, please, take a deep breath and ask yourself this: do I really want Ukip to run the country? Or do I have to accept that, unpalatable though it may be, the truth is that the next government will be run by a very similar lot to this lot. The choice, dear voter - the real choice in the real world, not your dream choice in a dream world - is between pale blue, pale red, or pale yellow.

"Some of you, I know, think the country would be much better off with fewer immigrants and out of the EU. I think you're wrong, but I can see why you would want to blame immigration and the EU for the state we're in. If we'd had a few more honest politicians, prepared to listen to your grievances, sit in your over-crowded doctors' surgeries, or come with you to your child's school where teachers are struggling to cope with the demands of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural intake, then, yes, just perhaps you'd feel that you were being taken seriously."

The always interesting Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh argued this week that the Ukip surge isn't really the fault of mainstream politicians but is the result of a "fragmentation of class loyalty, which has cut the vote share commanded by the two main parties from 97% in the 1951 election to 65% in 2010." What that means, he said, is that more votes are now up for grabs by rebel parties.

It's a fair point to make, but in my view, he's too forgiving of the political class. Of course, they do a job that has to be done by someone - my point is simply that they need to do it better. Too many politicians have forgotten how to listen to voters; instead they listen only to each other, plus a few journalist friends and their parties' ever more influential campaign advisers, who have been imported at enormous expense from the US or Australia.

So stand by for much breast-beating after 22 May. And then, with a bit of luck, the mainstream parties will seriously start trying to reconnect with the people who used to vote for them. And Ukip, having harnessed the scream of voters' rage, will slide back to the political fringe where it belongs.

By the way, my report from Burma is due to be broadcast tonight, Friday, on The World Tonight, and I'll also be on From Our Own Correspondent tomorrow. If you miss the broadcasts, you can catch up on BBC iPlayer. You can also see some of my pictures from the Burmese delta here.

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