Published on May 13th, 2014 |
by Bill Burton
Image © guardian 2014
UKIP on the charge
With the upcoming EU elections, Farage and the boys are on the charge. Waltzing through middle England with a spring in their step and ready to decry the failures of ‘modern Britain’. UKIP are looking to seize on anti EU sentiment and win the upcoming elections, which they have a reasonable chance of doing. In the latest YouGov poll UKIP came second with 27% of the vote, just behind Labour on 30%. The Tories are struggling on 33%, losing the initiative on the issue of EU membership.
Rising from relative obscurity for a number of years to become a credible national party brings greater scrutiny and unwanted attention. The UK press, for all their critics, are marvellous at digging up dirt on candidates and parties. UKIP’s rise in recent years means they have had to seek large numbers of new candidates. Without the rigours that the three main parties have for becoming a councillor or EU candidate, a number of people of dubious characters have slipped through the cracks.
UKIP’s rise is remarkably reliant on its totemic leader Nigel Farage. Like Boris Johnson he is able to rise above the vitriol reserved for most politicians and laugh off questions posed to him. The BBC has a lot to answer for, Farage has appeared on Question Time more than any other politician since 2009. For a party without a single MP this is simply absurd. The BBC will surely justify this on grounds of viewing figures, but when the rise of UKIP has had such tangible effects on policy the relentless barrage of Farage is dubious at best. Other than Nigel, Paul Nuttall is the next most visible UKIP member. Paul is a blokey northerner who dislikes details, policies but enjoys very much casting callous dispersions about immigrants. Then there was David Silvester who blamed extreme flooding on gay people. Apparently, he actually believed this. When pressed further by journalists, he actually reiterated his views. Aside from being amused and worryied in equal measures, this again showed the dangers of a steep rise to national attention.
Recent events in the US have shown similar patterns. Following the election of Obama in 2008, the Tea Party sprung up and suddenly needed many candidates that shared their views and as such a number of dubious comments came forth. Todd Akin suggested women’s bodies can block rape, Richard Mourdock claimed that it was God’s will if a women became pregnant after rape. You get the picture. The Tea Party has since lost momentum, numerous studies have looked into their fall and a clear picture emerges. Extreme political opinions of Tea Party candidates were not responsible for failures, instead personal characteristics and competence were much more important.
UKIP should learn from this, although, they probably won’t. A major problem they face is a number of their policies and opinions and policies are based on a misrepresentation of issues and are deeply flawed. Farage routinely claims Britain’s membership to the EU costs £55m per day, which is technically true but it receives more than that back in tariffs and trade. This past week Farage claimed British people should be given preference for jobs. Nick Robinson caught him on this considering he employs his German wife as a secretary. Farage laughed and claimed she would be the only person who would do it, yet a subsequent mock job advert received hundreds of applications.
Farage is a generally competent performer in front of the media, yet he is alone amongst his party. It may be that UKIP won’t learn from the Tea Party, they share the same inherent contradictions that makes maintaining a consistent and logical position for a sustained period impossible. They could yet win the EU elections, as turnout is low and it brings out only hardcore voters. A significant impact at the general election will be much less likely as the trappings of the electoral system will restrict their progress. One things for sure, Nigel will be spending a fair amount of time in the news.
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