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UKIP’s catch-all makeover

Ugh, UKIP. They have a new party election broadcast peddling a shopping list of “nice things”. Not a single policy gets an airing (apart from leaving the EU, of course), but it does mark UKIP’s transition from an avowedly right-wing populist formation to an organisation that is all things to all people. Interestingly, this also includes the passing of Thatcher.

Now, you might expect UKIP and Farage to be effusive in their praise of the dear departed Margaret. After all, they are a principled “libertarian” party in the Hayekian mode. They love the idea of the “small state”, of a rampant free market, bugger all rights for workers and a massive tax cut for the rich. Though, bizarrely, the most important part of their website – the manifesto pages where this is spelled out – all turn up 404 errors. Find out and click for yourself. Could it be UKIP are afraid to stand on principle lest it upset their tedious bandwagon?

I digress. UKIP put out this rather perfunctory statement, and that’s about it. Well, apart from this fan pic courtesy of Hillingdon branch. Shame they couldn’t get their heroine’s name right.

So why are UKIP laying off the Thatcher love? Because, well, it complicates matters. I recall a meeting at a local conference venue in 2005. The star turn was the odious Robert Kilroy-Silk, fresh from his UKIP resignation and pushing his new political vehicle, Veritas (amusingly, almost immediately dubbed ‘Vanitas’ by the unsympathetic). The conference venue was packed but the audience was truly the political equivalent of liquorice allsorts – a seemingly heterogeneous bunch sharing an underlying bitterness. For example, I was sat next to a youngish bloke who told me he was a massive Thatcherite. Several patrician conservatives were dotted around the auditorium who contributed to the subsequent discussion, and the front row was made up of cackling former Labour supporters who hated one thing more than immigrants – Tories. How Kilroy held the meeting together without fisticuffs was testament to his skill and star power, but it starkly demonstrated how unstable a formation it was. Sure enough, Veritas disappeared up Kilroy’s backside after that year’s general election and has continued a twilight existence ever since.

UKIP is fundamentally the same beast. It is way more popular than its Veritas mini-me ever was, but will avoid any hard and fast position, apart from Europe, that could burst it asunder – hence no big Thatcher eulogy. But as UKIP grows its membership and electorate, and the more it plays on “common sense” populism, the tougher it is to stave off instability. Already, since its foundation 19 years ago, UKIP underwent more splits and expulsions than the SWP’s forerunners in its first two decades. Between 2004 and 2009, UKIP lost four of its MEPs through fallings outs and fraudulent activity, and has continued this fine tradition since, losing Marta Andreasen to the Tories but landing that cartoon blimp, Roger Helmer. Every cloud, eh? And under the hood there lurk all manner ofunpleasantries and shenanigans that, curiously, do not merit as much media attention as Farage’s tub thumping.

The disappearance of previous manifestos, the switch to catch-all populism, and their sliver of praise for Thatcher is very deliberate. Nothing can be allowed to scupper their bid for the big time. They, as in Farage and his cronies, believe they are on an inexorable march to the top of the political tree, displacing the Conservatives as one of Britain’s top two parties. That is extremely unlikely to happen because of their incredible fragility, and the real revulsion more moderate Tory voters have for this ragtag and bobtail of a political party.

3 Comments

  1. Gerry says:

    Hilarious: UKIP distancing itself from their heroine Thatcher when I am sure I heard Nigel Farage say on the radio just a few days ago that if Margaret Thatcher had not been defenestrated by her own party in 1990, then there would have been no need for the creation of UKIP a couple of years later!

    And as for replacing the Tories – they will never do that, not under first past the post…the Tories have never got less than 31% at any election since universal suffrage, and got a high of 49% at the election of 1951 when they ended Attlee’s premiership, and – lest we forget – in 1992 under John Major they got the highest popular vote of ANY political party in the UK EVER: really.

    UKIP do have some popular policies on Europe and immigration but I bet they don’t even beat the Lib Dems come the next election…

  2. Rod says:

    Farage is playing a canny game – close enough to Thatcher to enable him to win votes from the Tory Right but not so close to prevent him winning Labour votes.

    It makes perfect sense.

  3. Patrick Coates says:

    The UKIP with Mr F was to put a candidate in every seat in Kent, they have failed to do this.
    They have not done this in the County Town, for those who dont know this is Maidstone now Ed’s second home.
    Unless they win all seats in Maidstone, they will not win in Kent, if they dont win Kent they will never win the Kingdom.

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