Archive for the 'UKIP' Category


David Herdson looks at the post-referendum purpose of UKIP

Friday, June 24th, 2016

UKIP youth

Your next mission, should you choose to accept it … is what?

The fruitcakes have taken over the asylum. UKIP, which well under a decade ago was a fringe party – it polled only 3.1% in the 2010 general election – has achieved the purpose for which it was created. Those critics who laughed at the party’s failure to win more than one seat last year should reflect that electoral success is only a means to an end, and is rarely the only means through which it can be achieved.

Rather like a fleet or army in being, UKIP didn’t need to win a direct battle against its opponents (which was useful because it wasn’t very good at it); it simply had to pose a sufficient threat to them by the fact of its very existence in order to prompt them into altering their course of action to offer UKIP the strategic opportunity they seized on Thursday.

Little more than a year after Douglas Carswell returned as UKIP’s sole MP, the true value of his party’s 3.88m votes is now apparent. So much for the ‘wasted vote’ thesis. Farage stands triumphant while all around him lies the wreckage of the careers of the leaders of great parties, of their policies and – who knows – perhaps yet of one or more of those parties themselves.

Never can the future have looked so bountiful in all directions. But in that excess of opportunity lies UKIP’s dilemma: after having succeeded in what it was created for, what does it do next? (It’s true that the UK is still a member of the EU but despite what will no doubt be delusional proposals from Europhiles for some new settlement on the one hand, and the paranoia of cynics that somehow the elite will backslide on the other, no-one can seriously question that the countdown is now running. The decision has been made).

UKIP’s European mission isn’t necessarily over even with EU withdrawal. There’s still the matter of the European Court of Human Rights, which remains a super-national impingement on British sovereignty, but that’s a lesser prize. The real challenge lies now within British politics.

Or challenges, plural. With all three old parties in various states of confusion and weakness, and with UKIP’s unusually broad membership base ideologically, it can – and must – choose where to position itself for the 2020s now that its former USP is greatly negated, or else it will wither and die.

– Does it try to build on that eclectic base and act as a generic protest party against a distant elite? But then what does it do if it attains power?

– Does it promote ‘freedom’ in more individual forms, harnessing its traditional liberal / libertarian strain, and so targeting the Conservatives and Lib Dems?

– Or does it seek to build on the huge Leave votes from Labour heartland areas where the Conservatives are limited in appeal and Lib Dems discredited, and position itself as the authentic voice of the working class?

These aren’t wholly contradictory strategies but there are clear choices that will have to be made between them, or other options, if their platform is to have some kind of coherence.

Beneath the policy question lies another practical problem: the party’s strength in depth, or lack thereof. As a young party, it remains very bottom-heavy: a lot of voters but few cabinet-capable and fully media-ready politicians, for example. If Britain had PR, UKIP would have won around a hundred seats last time out. Had they done so, could they have nominated enough to do the job sufficiently well without causing embarrassment? The track record from the European Parliament isn’t good.

For the time being, the leadership question answers itself. Despite Farage not being party of the official Leave campaign and despite some off-colour moments from him, this remains his victory more than anyone’s. Within UKIP, his position will be unassailable for some years unless hubris strikes. Yet Farage isn’t necessarily the person best-placed to capitalise on the immense strategic opportunity available – but who could do better even if they’d be allowed to? Opportunity in theory is fine but it takes people to grasp it in practice.

The whole edifice of British politics as we know it is weaker than at any time in the last eighty years. There can be no certainties at all. If the first half of the 2010s were extraordinary, the second has the potential to be utterly revolutionary – but only if those with the chance to make it so can take it. UKIP, unlike the SNP, may well fall short on that score. But then UKIP, unlike the SNP, has already achieved its greatest goal.

David Herdson

p.s. A quick word on Margaret Hodge’s No Confidence motion for the PLP. We don’t even know as yet whether the motion will be accepted, never mind how MPs will vote for it if it is. What we do know is that it carries no validity within Labour’s rulebook, only the power of pressure (though that would be considerable if it’s carried). What Corbyn is proving now, as Blair, Brown and Miliband proved before him, is that a Labour leader determined to go on holds an extraordinarily powerful position, particularly while the internal opposition to him remains leaderless.


A BREXIT indicator? UKIP’s National Equivalent Vote share down by nearly half in 3 years

Monday, May 9th, 2016

UKIP youth

Thursday saw UKIP winning just 2% of the first past the post seats

Given that the dominant political story at the moment is the EU referendum it has been rather surprising that so little attention has been paid to UKIP – the party which very wisely concentrated its resources on the PR-based list seats in Wales rather than first past the post elections in the English locals.

They certainly had success in Wales and also picked up two PR based seats on the London Assembly but the English local were more than just disappointing. A large proportion of the seats up were in Labour heartlands – just the sort of area where they’ve appeared to be doing well.

    Yes they made gains but their overall total of council seats taken was 58 or just 2% of the seats at stake. Contrast that with 2013 when UKIP won or retained 147 seats, 6% of those contested and a net gain of 139.

They’ve also lost their coveted 3rd place on vote position to the Lib Dems who won seven times as many council seats.

It is very true that first past the post works against the smaller parties as we saw at GE2015 when they only got one MP.

Mike Smithson


How Port Talbot could give us a pointer to the EURef

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016


Will UKIP fare well in Wales?

In the hot-house of political reporting and comment, individual stories invariably seem more important at the time than they subsequently turn out to be. The future of the Port Talbot steel works is likely to be one such case. Although the closure or even mothballing of the plant would be disastrous for the town and the people who live and work there, for most of Wales – never mind the country beyond – the impact will fade as the reporters move on.

Had the plant been in Scotland, the media political analysts would no doubt have paid a good deal of attention to the announcement’s impact on the Holyrood campaign but Welsh politics has never commanded the same degree of attention from London. Beyond Offa’s Dyke lies a land of dragons; fearful to behold and dangerous to enter. Consequently, the prism through which it’s analysed is the comfortably familiar one of Westminster. As an aside, Tata is looking to get out of Scotland too but the plants there are smaller and the announcement came at a less politically charged moment.

But if the London government has been behind the game in anticipating and responding to Tata’s decision, doesn’t the same go for its counterpart in Cardiff? Electorally, there’s a lot to be won from coming out of the right side of both the blame game and the aspirant workers’ champion.

That’s not least because the outcome of the Welsh Assembly elections is very much in the balance. Labour won exactly half the seats in the Assembly in 2012 off 37% of the list vote; this year they’re polling in the low-thirties. That’s about 10% clear of the Conservatives with Plaid a few points back and UKIP running a strong fourth in the mid-teens.

If winning half the seats from only 37% of the vote doesn’t sound like a very PR kind of outcome, that’s because it’s not. Only one-third of the seats are top-ups so a party that can dominate the constituency results off a relatively small vote share – as Labour does: they won 28 of the 40 seats in 2011 – will outperform their notional PR entitlement.

According to an analysis by Roger Scully of Cardiff University, the latest (and very large) YouGov poll would translate under UNS to an outcome in seats of:

Lab 27, Plaid 13, Con 11, UKIP 7, LD 2

Which would presumably leave Labour reliant on Plaid’s support, one way or another. It would also perhaps give UKIP their most visible representation in the UK (though note how UKIP, with slightly under half Labour’s share, wins only a quarter the number of Labour’s seats).

However, it’s UKIP where the situation gets interesting. For one thing, UNS won’t be applicable to them; it never is when a party rises from nearly nothing (4.6% in 2011) to a meaningful presence. For another, Wales offers more historic examples of Labour under-performing their polling. Have the pollsters sorted that problem out or might that lead be whittled yet further?

But there’s also the European angle. Europe is likely to dominate the political narrative in the media throughout April and beyond: that ought to offer far more opportunities than dangers to UKIP.

Which is where we come full circle because any attempt to ‘save’ Port Talbot would have to be compliant with EU rules and tariffs at the moment. Whether or not it would be a good idea to nationalise the plant, the fact is that state aid is tightly regulated and anti-Chinese protectionist measures can only be worked through the EU. At the moment, neither option is likely to be meaningfully available, something the Leave campaign have been making much of that today. They would be fools to let the issue drop any time soon.

Of course, ‘Leave’ and UKIP are far from synonymous and the idea that Leave will deliberately try to coordinate its efforts to boost the performance of the party whose purpose is to secure EU exit is probably fanciful; it doesn’t seem inclined to coordinate its efforts with either of the other Leaves in the referendum.

Still, both UKIP and Leave have been handed a very useful campaigning weapon, if one that’s probably time-limited. Come May 6, we could do far worse in looking for pointers towards the referendum result than to check out how far the Port Talbot effect has spread through South West Wales.

David Herdson


The woman Farage sacked is 6/4 favourite to succeed him as UKIP leader

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Former UKIP star Suzanne Evans discusses her suspension from   YouTube

A big political story before the Easter weekend was the suspension for six months of leading UKIP figure, Suzanne Evans, who for a few days last May was acting leader of the party.

She stood in after Farage carried out his promised resignation on the Friday after the general election only to return as leader the following week.

Evans, a former BBC journalist and CON councillor, had become one of the most effective communicators for her party and had hopes of being elected to the Greater London Assembly on Msy 5th. Her six month suspension which she sought to contest in the courts means that she won’t be on the UKIP list for the election.

I don’t claim to have any insight into UKIP’s internal politics and have no view of the betting odds. My one observation is that not having a communicators as effective as Evans in a leading position is a big mistake. She is someone with the ability to reach a wider audience than most in the UKIP leadership.

Mike Smithson


Why the decline of the BNP is good news for Farage’s UKIP

Friday, January 8th, 2016

The news this afternoon that the BNP is no longer officially a political party has been dismissed by party officials as an oversight. The move has, apparently, been caused by the failure of the party to send in the fee of £25 by the the due date with the result that it has been removed from the official list.

This means that BNP candidates won’t use the party’s name, description or emblems on ballot papers. But it’s expected that things will be put right by the May elections.

Whatever an admin failure like this does suggest that all is not well at BNP towers and the party is struggling.

The chart above suggested that the main beneficiary of the BNP fading out of the picture will be UKIP.

Mike Smithson


Immigration might be the most important issue facing the country but it isn’t the only issue

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

If UKIP and Leave want to make further progress and win the referendum they need to talk about things other than immigration.

We see in the Ipsos Mori issues index (and in other polling) on a regular and consistent basis immigration/immigrants as the most important issue facing the UK yet if immigration/immigrants really was the most important issue then UKIP would have picked up more than one seat in May as David Cameron’s spectacular failure to cut net immigration in the last parliament would have damaged the Tory Party’s electoral prospects at the general election.

My own belief is the voters don’t focus on just the main issue when choosing how to vote, they look at a range of issues and judge which side has the best overall policies on these issues, I suspect the EU referendum will be no different. Another factor is when the question is asked slightly differently by YouGov And which of the following do you think are the most important issues facing you and your family? Immigration falls to third place behind the NHS and the economy.

The other way the Tories got around the immigration issue at the election was to pretty much ignore the issue and focus on other things. During the election campaign the Tory themes were nothing to do with immigration, but about the economy, the extra funds into the NHS, competence versus chaos, and of course the SNP. In ‘The British General Election of 2015’ book, Philip Cowley and Dennis Kavanagh noted

But the [Tory] party leadership calculated any attempt to win back the majority of Ukip supporters might alienate more moderate voters.

The book reads: “In 2012 an internal note for the Prime Minister noted: ‘There is nothing we could realistically say to persuade Ukip considerers that David Cameron’s Conservative Party shares (or even sympathises with) their general sense of cultural threat and anger about the pace of change in modern society.’

“Or rather, there was, but only at the cost of driving away other voters ‘upon whom our prospects of electoral victory depend’.”

This week it was reported about the recent failed talks between The Leavers People’s Front and The People’s Front for Leave to unify the two Leave camps

During what is described as a “cordial” meeting, Mills and Hodson were frank about their reservations. They cited what they see as Banks’ “erratic” behaviour and his determination to put immigration at the heart of the Brexit campaign as key barriers to a full merger. They also raised the thorny question of the role to be played by Nigel Farage, over which the rival campaigns disagree. (Vote Leave believes Farage is too divisive and politically damaged to lead the campaign, whereas believes he must be at the forefront.)

So if are designated the official Leave campaign then expect them to focus a lot on immigration during the referendum campaign, this would be a mistake. One of the reasons I expected UKIP to do poorly in terms of seats was the polling prior to the general election showed the voters saw UKIP as the most extreme party and UKIP were more likely to have candidates with racist or offensive views than other political parties.

Farage’s HIV comments (as in the above video clip) might have reinforced those perceptions and put off the voters UKIP needed to win parliamentary seats, frankly it came across as nasty. You can understand why some voters might have voted tactically against UKIP in some seats.

There are arguments for Brexit other than immigration such as, inter alia, on economic grounds, protecting the City of London and on sovereignty grounds. 27% might be enough to win the European elections, but it won’t be enough to win a referendum. A referendum is a glorified First Past The Post election and UKIP have a poor record in First Past The Post elections, for those wanting to see Brexit, they most hope Leave doesn’t make the mistake UKIP did in May.

To win Leave needs to not keep banging on about immigration but present a positive and non nasty view about what Remaining in the EU/Brexit means for the future of the UK. Focusing solely on voters whose only issue is immigration will not win the referendum for Leave, there just aren’t that many type of voters as the results in May showed.



By two to one UKIP voters tell YouGov that Donald Trump’s controversial Muslim immigration ban call was appropriate

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015


Why it might not be wise for UKIP to go too hard on expenses and allowances in Oldham

Friday, November 20th, 2015

This from the UKIP candidate

And a bit of history