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Some of my best friends quite like Paul Nuttall. They think of him as a bit of a “cheeky chappy” who is pretty affable.
There’s a rule in HR (Human Resources) – that past performance predicts future performance. On that basis, that Paul Nuttall MEP failed to win Bootle and numerous other seats previously, the current leader of UKIP may continue the losing streak in getting into the UK parliament.
But these are different times – where there are no facts or truth, and anything goes. For example, nobody really cares whether Paul Nuttall holds a Doctorate or not. It’s very rare for somebody to be elected into parliament on their academic prowess. Enoch Powell and Tristram Hunt both went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and both hold doctorates from the said University, but that did not make them into election-winning infallible machines.
Looking at the idea of targeting people for particular seats, one can see the logic of trumping up a LibDem candidate in a parliamentary seat such as Richmond in London which is predominantly anti-Brexit. Similarly, the constituency in Stoke is largely pro Brexit, so if there is someone in with a chance it’s Paul Nuttall MEP. When you add to this that Tristram Hunt only just won his seat, having been parachuted in with the help of senior Labour grandees, only just beating UKIP, the high risk strategy of Nuttall might indeed pay off.
Why is it high risk of Nuttall to go for this seat? It’s a very public fight. If he wins the seat, this could be a landmark victory for UKIP in a post Brexit vote or post Trump inaugural era. It may be now ‘acceptable’ to vote for Nuttall. There could be a plethora of shy Nuttalls, who aren’t ‘racist’ but who feel that immigration is out of control. They aren’t opposed to immigration per se, but can’t stand people from Eastern Europe stealing their jobs or living together in houses of ten.
To this extent, Paul Nuttall MEP is behaving exactly like a ‘disruptive innovation’. Typically a product, a disruptive innovation comes along, which, if adopted, offers some feature or value the other products don’t have. It’s easy to obtain this product, and completely scoops up the market. We’ve seen in roads in disruption from, say, the Apple iPod or Uber taxis.
The interesting thing is that with this added value, say the ‘beautiful’ design of the iPad or iPod, people are prepared to overlook the lack of certain other features (e.g. no record deck or minidisc). Paul Nuttall’s unique selling point is that he can plug into this sentiment that nobody cares about getting immigration levels down. And to that extent no amount of memes about his wish for certain types of capital punishment or privatisation of the NHS are relevant.
And the other thing is that, once Nuttall gets his foot in the door, nobody will ever look back – people will be hard pushed to imagine a market without iPods, iPads or Uber taxis. Similarly, we’ll all wonder how on earth we ever managed without UKIP in mainstream politics.
There are also externalities which might act in Nuttall’s in favour. One of them is the sheer effort and tenacity with which the parliamentary Labour Party has put into rubbishing the brand of the Labour Party, whether this involves criticising Jeremy Corbyn personally, or criticising his personal stance over a wide variety of issues (e.g. the pay differential, Trident etc.)
The Labour Party is like the country divided. The membership is said to be soaring, and yet certain MPs are thought to be seeking alternative employment ahead of the next general election (like Jamie Reed for example). The MPs are genuinely divided on a lot of policy, such as Brexit and Trident, but are generally well disposed to criticising with an united voice the crisis, humanitarian or not, in the NHS and social care.
Past performance is meant to be a predictor of future performance. Whilst it is roughly true that the one day of Trump as a president has been largely the same as Trump as the candidate, we know the Republican Party were loath to support Trump and Trump’s poll ratings are terrible.
So, the difficult transpires how we will know whether Labour will have a chance in Stoke or Copeland. If you take heed that nobody has ever come back from such terrible poll ratings, Jeremy Corbyn politically is already dead and buried. But he did also defy convention to be elected leader of the Labour Party twice, the second election being a ‘back me or sack me’ scenario.
The truth is that the Labour Party in parliament have limited options in rubbishing their brand, and some of it depends whether voters think they’d rather try a new political party rather than one of the incumbents. There may also be, unlikely though it is, shy Corbynites who will never admit to voting for Corbyn, a bit like fans of the pop group Bros, but who will go out and vote for him as it’s better than voting Tory.
It may be that despite all the faults people will vote for Labour or Nuttall whatever, in the same way that the sexual peccadillo or showering habits of Trump are not game changers. But these are strange times. If Nuttall wins, it could be, as Blair put it once, ‘a new dawn has broken’. But if he loses, as UKIP leader, the accusations will come thick and fast that UKIP have peaked, and that with the Brexit negotiations, this is ‘no time for a novice’.
Nuttall’s approach to be that, apart from a sense of libertarianism thinking the NHS could benefit from more privatisation making it more efficient, the ideology is sufficiently broad brush to appeal to anyone who hates immigration. But if he wishes to slay the sacred cow that is the NHS, especially at a time when the NHS is in crisis, it’s debatable about whether voters like him enough to make Nuttall an official member of the House of Commons? Is it beyond contempt to criticise the NHS as a member of the ‘working class’ (a broad category of people), or is Nuttall ‘seizing the moment’?
It could be that Paul Nuttall is not ‘the man of the moment’, but, as the Thick of It hold out, the “man for the moment”.