James O'Brien is Leading Britain's Conversation.
24 February 2017, 12:49
Labour won the Stoke by-election, and lost out on Copeland to the Tories, but UKIP could have been more successful if Paul Nuttall hadn't been "a nut", says David Mellor.
When I was in parliament, sat across the aisle from me was somebody I was very fond of on the Labour benches, Jack Cunningham.
He was a stalwart of the Labour Party, frontbencher, cabinet minister for more than 30 years, and Copeland was his seat.
If I had gone across to old Jack and said 'you watch your step Jack, your seat's going to go to Tory, during your lifetime' I think he would have said I've 'had a bit too much to drink'.
I suspect Jeremy Corbyn will probably be as brazen as he always is, but what it shows is that his values are not only not the values of the nation as a whole, his values are not even the values of the Labour Party, certainly what I would call the traditional Labour Party.
And we're not just talking Copeland here, we're talking Stoke. I mean Stoke is one of Labour's absolutely safest seats, the fact they scraped in by just over 2,000, despite Doris and all the rest of it, the fact that only 38 per cent of the public could be persuaded to go, even though it was said to be nip and tuck, suggests that Corbyn is in big trouble. He is dead meat.
But of course, there are other bits of cut, there are other carcasses floating around on the tide today. What about Mr Paul Nuttall? Or as I think in of him now, the man who put the nut in Nuttall.
Most politicians wait until they get into parliament before they lie about matters of policy, but he seems to have practiced his lying on his CV, and not just once, but several times. Of course it's all blamed on some poor assistant who puts up his web page.
I think this is actually quite a serious moment for UKIP. It was ironic when somebody said the 'graveyards of England are full of the irreplaceable people', because you and I both know if anything happens to us, they won't find it difficult to replace us.
Nigel Farage, happily not dead, alive and well on LBC, Nigel Farage stepping down from UKIP, created an impossible pair of shoes for anyone to fill.
I personally think Nuttall should fall on his sword, because I can't see how he can regain credibility, after saying he'd lost a dear friend at Hillsborough, and a whole lot of other lies that are just too easy for people to get hold of.
My view is: if Nuttall hadn't been a nut, UKIP could have won this, and it would have been a turning point.
Of course there are various people who will be annoyed about this, not just people in UKIP, but a lot of Tories will be annoyed about this.
You see, when you trace the history of UKIP, it was essentially started as a way of putting pressure on the Tory party to make the Tory party anti-Europe.
Then UKIP suddenly came to realise, Nigel Farage suddenly came to realise, that actually UKIP had a line into traditional Labour voters.
In my first constituency, West Bromwich East, I fought a traditional Labour place and I used to find it very frustrating.
You go round and people would agree with you on policy, but they still said 'we're Labour, we're never going to vote Tory'. UKIP broke through that.
UKIP were able to establish a connection on policy with with traditional Labour voters, who didn't feel that they would rather be sick than vote for UKIP, because UKIP didn't have the same resonance for Labour voters that voting Tory does.
What has happened here is that Nuttall has managed, single handedly, to put a stop to that, and there's even talk now about this 'let's defeat Labour' stratagem of UKIP's being ditched.
That would be a bad thing for the Tories, as well as obviously putting UKIP in an impossible position. When you think of them, are they any longer a major political party? Arguably not.