Monday, October 10, 2016

Don't write off the UKIP car crash yet

The world of politics has been in a state of flux since the general election last year but the past week must take the gold medal for the You-Couldn't-Make-This-Up competition. Ukippers losing a leader and then having a scrap in the corridors of power; Conservatives at their conference calling for Britain to be impoverished by shutting us off from our biggest market while bashing business, Comrade Corbyn backing his own calls for unity while sacking his unity chief whip and Donald Trump demonstrating why do one in their right mind should touch him with a barge pole.

And so, back to Tuesday last week. I got back late from a meeting of the Sunniside History Society to the news that the UKIP leader, Diane James, had resigned after only 18 days in the post. Though beating the short reign of Lady Jane Grey as Queen, the resignation of James revealed the malaise at the heart of UKIP. The party tends to attract people for negative reasons. The one issue that united them has now gone. Hating foreigners, gays, the BBC, the Guardian, metric measurements and modern life while believing climate change is a European conspiracy story hardly constitute the platform around which a party can unite with a coherent message. The unseemly scrap two days later simply highlighted again that UKIP are a party that are tearing themselves apart, just as other political parties on the far right tend to do.

But don't sign the death certificate of UKIP yet. Despite its dreadful internal state, it can still pull off a few surprises, where other parties are off their guard. On Thursday, while the fists were flying in Strasbourg, UKIP were busy winning a seat from Labour on a gigantic swing in Hartlepool. It is an area taken for granted by Labour, where no other opposition party has any significant local strength - we didn't even field a candidate - allowing UKIP to fill a void. Regardless of what they stand for, they were used as a vehicle to bash the local establishment, in this case the Labour party. Admittedly, the swing to UKIP was exaggerated by their absence from the ward, Headlands and Harbour, when it was last fought. Furthermore, there was previously a substantial vote for a party called Putting Hartlepool First but this collapsed in the by-election (though the Labour vote was down 17% as well).

So, even though UKIP is something of a car crash, they cannot yet be fully written off. They can still attract a few passengers despite the vehicle being without a driver, the engine smashed, the axles broken, the brakes faulty and the petrol tank leaking fuel.

I'll blog about the other political issues I mentioned in the opening paragraph on another day. I can't spend all today on the laptop! After all I've got a meeting with Gateshead's Chief Exec and one with Planting Up Whickham this afternoon. And I have a goat to milk and videos to edit!

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