Voters have spoken, and we must listen

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

What to make of last week’s county council elections?

Naturally, much of the press coverage has concentrated on UKIP’s strong performance – and I will say a word or two about that later.

However, looking at it from the perspective of the Dacorum seats, the most striking aspect was how little changed from four years ago.

Attending the Dacorum count in the early hours of Friday morning, I saw the results come in – and not a single county council division changed hands.

In my constituency, Berkhamsted became more Conservative – congratulations to Ian Reay whose diligence was well-rewarded – and Tring became more Liberal Democrat, despite the best efforts of Conservative candidate Fiona Guest.

In Hemel Hempstead, once safe Labour seats remained Conservative (or, in one case, Liberal Democrat) but with Labour slipping into third, or fourth, place.

So the big story locally was that Labour’s vote continues to dwindle.

But what about UKIP? Although their performance was not as spectacular in Hertfordshire as elsewhere in the country in that they failed to win a single county seat, they performed consistently well in getting around a quarter of the votes in most places.

There will be plenty of theories as to why they did well. For different people, there will be different explanations. It is clear that UKIP attracted votes from people who had previously supported all three main parties, plus some who had not voted before.

It is also clear that, throughout Europe, new anti-establishment parties have done very well in elections in the last couple of years.

I think much of this comes back to the economy.

Most voters recognise that the last Labour government got us into an economic mess and that their approach to spending and borrowing would make matters worse.

But when economic growth is slow and bumpy, it is not surprising that there is a degree of impatience and that many will want to register a protest against the parties in power.

I would argue that UKIP doesn’t really offer much of an answer as to how to grow the economy, but it does articulate people’s frustration.

On some of the supposedly controversial policies pursued by the government – like cutting immigration and controlling welfare spending – the message of the UKIP vote is that we should go further and faster.

As for Europe, my sense is that many people sympathise with UKIP but their support was more driven by a ‘none of the above’ mood.

Nonetheless, we are a Eurosceptic nation.

We do not want further powers to be transferred to Europe. Instead, we want to bring some powers back.

There is also a general sense that the British people should have its say in the next few years about our membership of the EU.

So, even though UKIP failed to break through round here, the concerns of those who voted for them shouldn’t be dismissed.

David Gauke is the MP for South West Hertfordshire. 
Contact his office on 01923 771781 or visit