UKIP’s Margate conference is over, but its election manifesto is yet to be published. We know what the party’s mood music is, and that it has two policies that the three major national Westminster parties plus the Greens find distasteful: withdrawal from the EU and a greatly tightened points-based system for immigration. Beyond that, what UKIP stands for – concretely speaking – is largely a matter of conjecture; of hope for some, yet apparent fear for others.
UKIP’s failure to define what it stands for and what it would wish to do were it to be in a position to influence policy, illustrates that it still has some way to go to define itself as a political party. As matters stand, it remains a vehicle of protest. A UKIP candidate on the ballot paper will effectively present voters with the opportunity to vote for ‘none of the above’, providing that the latter sentiment also coincides with voters’ opposition to EU membership and mass immigration. As such, a vote for UKIP can be said to be positive, as it increases the pressure on other parties to address these concerns, particularly in marginal seats where UKIP’s seizure of a few thousand votes will doubtless hobble the chances of many a ‘mainstream’ candidate. That said, a vote for UKIP should, given the party’s lack of clarity regarding direction and policy, be one that is loaned to it.
UKIP’s absence of a definite set of policies currently enables it to tap into the discontents of different groups of voters in both traditional Conservative and Labour seats, but as such, this approach is unstable. It may work for a while, but can UKIP function in this manner in the longer term, if indeed, there is a longer term? Douglas Carswell has already stated that he believes immigration “has been, overwhelmingly, a story of success.” How many UKIP voters believe that statement to be true? Carswell appears to have strayed into the wrong party, frustrated by Cameron’s commitment to EU membership. Farage may yet come to rue having allowed Carswell into his party. It may have raised UKIP’s profile and given it a brief fillip in the polls, but if one of UKIP’s two core messages that has great resonance with the public – its opposition to mass immigration – is abandoned, UKIP may as well disband and simply become a campaign group calling for an EU referendum. Then again, perhaps it was never intended for it to be anything other than the latter.
It seems likely that UKIP will stack up a large number of votes across the country in May, taking support from both the Conservatives and Labour, creating unpredictable electoral dynamics and consequences in many constituencies. However, it is unlikely to seize many parliamentary seats, and like the SDP, will come a good second in many a constituency. As to what readers of this blog think, the recent readers’ poll revealed that the greatest proportion of respondents – 25% - thought that UKIP would have 2-3 MPs in the new parliament, but only 3% thought that the party would have no MPs, the same percentage who stated that the party would obtain 51 seats or more (an unusual opinion, certainly). The majority of respondents – some 68% - thought that UKIP would have between 1 and 10 MPs, but surprisingly there was also a cluster of readers – 12% - who thought that the party would obtain between 21 and 25. However many MPs are elected under the UKIP banner, their influence upon this General Election is likely to be a significant and interesting one, but quite what it will stand for remains very much up in the air.
UKIP would be utterly foolish to abandon its present stance against immigration and make it more liberal. It is undoubtedly true that it is this policy aspect which is behind the surge in their support and not so much their anti-EU stance. Many people oppose our membership but they don't really perceive it as an issue that has a bearing upon their daily lives and that was reflected in UKIP's poor electoral results before they made immigration a primary focus of what they stand for.ReplyDelete
If Mr Carswell gains influence in the party and his stance on immigration leads to UKIP being less robust on the issue then UKIP's support levels could well go down dramatically.
They need to develop their policies in other areas if they are to achieve a lasting impact on the political scene and they would be wise to have generally centrist or even slightly 'leftwing' policies on the economy as an excessively neo-liberal economic stance has less electoral appeal. Soon UKIP will have to broaden their appeal or become yet another party that showed some initial promise but fell by the wayside.
They also need to be a bit more careful about who they select as candidates or go on tv/radio to represent them. Some of these people have been caught-out making some irrational and/or derogatory remarks about homosexuals/bisexuals and that gives the party bad publicity and makes them less credible as a real alternative to the big parties.It also badly obscures what the party is trying to say on far more important issues. This was one of the BNP's main mistakes and one reason why it was never viewed as a credible party and subsequently imploded. I'll probably be voting for UKIP unless there is a better party standing in my constituency. Brentwood and Ongar is a Tory stronghold which is held by Eric Pickles by a huge 16,921 majority (or 33.45% percentage majority over the Lib Dems) One site (electoral calculus) predicts he will win again by a landslide but that UKIP will obtain 20% of the vote. Perhaps, if the Tories lose again they might reflect upon how many votes they have lost in Tory safe seats and elsewhere by not being robust enough on the immigration question.ReplyDelete
Given the current rates of population replacement Barry, I'm not so sure that the Conservatives will be too bothered about limiting immigration from 2020 onwards, as by then the immigrant and immigrant-descended electorate will already be so massive as to neuter the political prospects of any party that attempts to limit mass immigration. It's a depressing prospect.Delete
Given the current climate a protest vote is our best option, irrespective of policies. Most right minded folk know that UKIPs manifesto will contain things unpalatable to most people, but at this moment its about making the best of a bad job.ReplyDelete
Love the article title.
Yes, I agree. If you don't vote you have no voice whatever. At least by voting you can send a message. I will therefore vote UKIP. I would have voted for the English Democrats who are standing my seat but I think it was a great mistake for them to change their previous policy of supporting devolution to one of outright separatism. Their policies on immigration and the economy especially are better than UKIP's.Delete
If UKIP do poll large numbers of votes but only gain a handful of seats as seems likely at the moment then that will surely add to the pressure for a REAL electoral reform referendum (ie on a system of Proportional Representation). Perhaps because UKIP is a 'Right-wing' party then the press will stop their damaging characterisation of electoral reform being of concern only to left-wing people.. Also, the expected landslide for the SNP will also highlight what a silly and archaic system FPTP is.
As my seat is so Tory you could put-up a dog turd as the Tory candidate and they would still win by a landslide, the Tories normally don't bother sending election literature at general elections but that changed today for the first time ever. Today, I received a small leaflet detailing how concientious our local Tory MP Eric Pickles is about the constituency of Brentwood and Ongar. Something tells me they are worried about a substantial vote for UKIP in this seat.
I agree Cygnus. It's worth voting for UKIP simply as a protest. I'll be eagerly awaiting the election results late on Thursday 7th and into the early hours of Friday 8th may. Glad you liked the article title. As it is, it happens to have been the penultimate one.Delete