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Can UKIP get the UKIP bandwagon rolling again?

UKIP bandwagonRemember UKIP? You know, that garishly-branded so-called people’s party that has form on the privatisation of the NHS, massive tax cuts for the mega wealthy, and thinks things like the minimum wage and maternity pay should be at an employer’s discretion? Reminding us they’re very real and very relevant, UKIP have made their first headlines since Farage’s farrago over the party’s leadership all the way back in May. They will, apparently, be launching their own ‘no’ campaign for EU withdrawal independent of the others competing for its official mantle. After a period of much welcome respite from Nigel Farage and their putrid politics, can this turn see them reclaim the headlines and the axis of political debate?

The biggest problem with UKIP is their populism. It’s their main strength and greatest weakness. As a barely coherent us vs themism UKIP is, among other things, a direct outgrowth of decades of hateful, empty-headed rabble rousing by the press and a failure by mainstream politicians to challenge it. Au contraire, with some notable exceptions most have happily gone along with it. Despite this the (right wing) press rhetoric grants our MPs no slack. They are clueless but dishonest schemers who want to destroy Britain. The EU is the symbol of their elitism, and immigrants – whether EU citizens, workers from outside of it, or refugees fleeing war, terror, and dictatorship – a visible manifestation of the plot to bury our national character under waves of migrants. Of course, a cursory analysis of UKIP and its chief backers reveal nothing more than another rich man’s scapegoating tool. Its rhetoric is populist, but its politics helps them in their ceaseless struggle against us.

The problem with UKIP’s populism, which is undoubtedly deeply felt by the millions who vote for them, is its seasonal character. If the EU or immigration are dominating the headlines, their support swells. If not, well, take this summer for instance. Were it not for the Corbyn surge, the only news story would have been the appalling scenes from Calais and the Mediterranean. Immigration would have dominated the Labour leadership contest, candidates would be shadow boxing with UKIP, and the purples’ poll ratings would have likely recovered. Instead, despite immigration registering as the number one concern and despite a couple of months of hostile headlines, the Labour left’s insurgent populism appears to be killing them. That and/or an evaporation of media coverage of all things kippy thanks to the very same. The local council by-election results since June appear to bear this out. For three months on the trot not only have their vote shares and averages declined, for the first time in a long time they’ve persistently lagged behind the Liberal Democrats (despite standing in more seats) and in August were out-organised and out-polled by the Greens – another first.

Whatever one might think of Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour Party led by him and equipped with a left programme makes for a more convincing populist outfit than an awkward melange of city slickers, anti-politics types, and more-or-less open racists. So for UKIP to properly come back, they need to make the political weather again. Banging on about immigration, as Farage signaled this morning, has worked before. No doubt UKIP’s bigwigs are hoping that there is ripe political territory here again. As far as they’re concerned, if Jeremy wins Labour will be abandoning this debate entirely allowing the purples to move in and hoover up those disenchanted voters in the northern strongholds. Perhaps, it just depends how Jeremy’s attempt to reframe the debate goes – especially with a policy suggestion of extra resources for areas where new populations tend to settle. It will be interesting to see – should it get the chance to be implemented – whether these positive proposals are able to meet the relentless “throw ’em out, close the borders” bigotry of UKIP.

The second, coming back to the EU referendum, is their proposal for an independent, Farage-led, UKIP-branded campaign. This is a politically astute move for a couple of reasons. Whether Dave will let his cabinet members agitate for a no vote remains to be seen, but there was always the danger that the prominence afforded leading Tories and Tory backbenchers using kipper-type language and indulging the sorts of scaremongering they’ve cornered the political market in could actually leech away some of UKIP’s support back to the Tories. Remember, a good chunk of their present membership were signed up thanks to Dave’s piloting of equal marriage through the Commons. A sign that the Tories are going right, or at least are seen to be comfortable holding within it plenty of right wingers, might mean curtains.

Then again, being independent of the official campaign is no guarantee this won’t happen. It just means that Farage can hold forth on whatever he sees fit and, perhaps, set the political tone for the No campaign in general. UKIP has also drawn lessons from Labour’s Scottish calamity. While anti-EU Tories might gain from a touch of populism of their own, UKIP could lose out if they’re perceived to be too chummy with establishment figures. If he’s as smart as he thinks he is, Farage would do well to avoid sharing platforms with Philip Hammond, IDS, and the rest of the eurosceptic bunch. What UKIP are hoping for is that continued immigration concerns and generalised antipathy to official politics will ensure the party profits the most from sticking up for Britain. They’re hoping for their SNP moment, whether the referendum goes their way or not.

The question is can they pull it off? I’d like to say I trust the good sense of the British electorate, but I don’t. That said they are in a weak position right now and the cards are stacked against them, but all it takes is for the seasons to change again for them to spring back – and the complacency of their opponents.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid


  1. David Ellis says:

    Lot of working class UKIP supporters coming back to Labour because they think the labour left is anti-EU. It used to be and it still should be otherwise these returnees are going to be disappointed. Corbyn should make it clear that he will be calling for an OUT or NO or LEAVE vote in Cameron’s EU referendum for three reasons:

    1. Socialist cannot possibly vote positively for the neo-liberal foundations of the EU which are in any case tearing it apart;

    2. We cannot possible vote positively for Cameron’s anti-working class `reforms’ without completely discrediting ourselves;

    3. A good mid-term defeat on such a big ticket item may mark the beginning of the end for this wretched government.

    He can distinguish the left’s approach to Europe from that of the Little Englanders and Stalinists by saying that we are not against an EU in principle, in fact in principle we are in favour, but we are against this one – Another Europe is Possible. One where workers are not obliged to chase each others tails across the continent in search of ever lower wages and ever meagre welfare. One where all members operate a regime of full employment and pay the minimum of an EU-wide living wage. One that might even have a continent-wide integrated health service free at the point of delivery.

  2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    Speaking as some who used to extremely pro the EU; I’ll be voting to leave whatever the Labor party says, TTIP was the last straw for me and we need to get out from under it, but also for many other reasons as well.

    I’m no fan of UKIP; but I still voted for them at the last election, (despite that,) rather than lend my support to the Labor party of Iraq, Afghanistan, Rotherham, Mid Staffs, (those endless expenses scandals,) Rochdale, Birmingham etc….

    Whether you approve of UKIP, (in my own case mostly not,) or not and they certainly strike a chord with many people I know , who are Labour; beaten, discredited and largely perceived as being almost completely corrupt to say they’re completely wrong about everything?

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      Like all bigots everywhere I remain confident that I am not in fact a bigot myself, however I remain equally confident that this is a view of myself would be also shared by most of the people who know me personally; in fact much, (though far from all,) of the widespread support for UKIP arises more out of disillusionment with and cynicism about Labor than from real support from conviction.

      Well heeled Labor, few of whom have ever had to earn an honest living by actually, “working,” for a living, (and speaking now as someone who’s spent their life in manufacturing at the sharp end would understand the word,) remain in complete denial about just how adversely widespread mitigation from Eastern Europe has affected employment by reducing both the availability of work and pay and conditions here in the UK.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Two very interesting comments. Somebody should show them to Corbyn.

  3. Bazza says:

    If Labour (hopefully under Corbyn who I voted for) gets back into power it should go back to local government grants being based on population size and NEED.
    The Tories just based it on population size (with the Lib Dem dimwits going along with this) and we had billions of cuts for Norhern Councils whilst some Tory Southern Councils got more.
    (Also probably helped hammer the Lib Dem Dim Wits in Cornwall!)
    We should reform the EC – kick Neo-Liberalism out, and in a grassroots approach build a Europe that favours those who have to sell their labour to live.
    We are in the third stage of capitalism -globalisation and leaving the EC may be going against the tide of history.
    Yes the EC was set up to promote capitalism in Europe, to counter the then perceived threat of the USSR, and to give Europe more of an independent voice in the World. France were originally against Britain joining the EC because they felt it would act as a Trojan Horse for the US which it eventually did and the dollar was soon to dominate.
    Interesting – there has been a lot of talk lately about the World depending more on China but 75% of exports from China are from foreign owned companies (in the US only 2% of companies are foreign owned) and Germany may soon be about to get its short back and sides from China with reduced engineering product orders (its strongest export commodity).
    I will be voting to stay in the EC and campaigning for internationalism and to kick Neo-Liberalism out!

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      So essentially you’re voting for; an institution set up to promote the American Neolibral/Globalization/Free market agenda in order to express your opposition to these very same trends and principles.

      I find your logic confused, even without the recent frightening example of Greece, attempting negotiate a more sensible accommodation within the EU and with the European and American finical institutions to no avail.

      I entirely share your sentiment about the traditional spirit of socialist internationalism, but;I feel it would be more in keeping with that spirit to be expressing your support for socialism Greece and Venezuela for example than for the corrupt, unaccountable and over-mighty bureaucracy that EU has now become.

      I personally believe that the time when reform from within was still possible for the UE is now long past, even without the too often simply corrupt sell outs of our national interests and of our sovereignty by our often sleazy politicians.

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