Of all the things that are baffling and disturbing about UK politics at the moment, the root of that is the most baffling and disturbing thing of them all. Just how the hell do UKIP get the press that they receive? We see their elected representatives on television, they consistently appear on the radio. By god they’re in the press too. Yet for all the hype surrounding the Kippers, and the hyperbole spouted by their new leader Paul Nuttall, I suspect that we have reached peak Kipper.
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Firstly, let us not forget, that UKIP’s only selling point is the UK’s departure from the European Union. And that selling point has, very dramatically, become a poisonous point. They have focused on immigration, much to the detriment of the failures you can genuinely pin on the European Union. That focus on Immigration is a deliberate conflation of the EU principle of “Freedom of Movement” (something which doesn’t work so well in the UK, thanks to a variety of reasons) and immigration. Yet the massed ranks of the official Remain campaign during the referendum campaign chose not to lay a glove on UKIP’s deception. We now have growing voices saying that “we must listen to the voters concerns over immigration” – not just Tory voices but nominally Labour voices too.
While the vote to Leave has left much of the UK’s political classes on the back foot and struggling to come to terms with the vote, UKIP themselves have been in celebration mood and making bullish noises about keeping the UK’s politicians feet to the fire. The problem with that is that they have reached their target and there is nowhere else for UKIP to go. They wanted Brexit before anyone else had heard of the phrase – remember they were one of two parties fighting the 1997 General Election on a platform to leave the EU (James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party being the other).
The second reason why I think that it will be downhill from here for UKIP is that, I suspect that UKIP people will begin to migrate towards the Conservative Party and, like a party within a party, take over that party. We’ve already seen an exchange of ideas between Tories and UKIP – The official Leave campaign seriously gained traction within the polls at the Referendum when they fully adopted UKIP’s campaign. I suspect that the template for what will happen between UKIP and the Tories will be the Tea Party in the USA. If you go back further, a similar thing happened to the last (much more successful) upstart fourth party within the UK. In the early 1980’s, the SDP won by-elections and looked as if it might have a say in who would form the next UK government – all a matter of months after it’s formation. Then the Falklands War happened and the SDP/Liberal Alliance finished a strong third, just over 650,000 votes behind Labour. Four years later and the SDP were debating whether to carry on or to merge with the Liberal party. Though they did and the Liberal Democrats were successful, some of the SDP’s people went back to Labour and informed a lot of it’s thinking around the gestation of what became New Labour.
Assuming that the Tories will be ripe for UKIP-ification, then beyond just snaffling their policies and anti-immigration stylings, what will happen? I’d suspect that both James and Stephen Wolfe will become Tory members, perhaps Suzanne Evans as well. Those three represent the ‘brains’, they are the brightest of UKIP’s elected representatives. What you will have left is the rabble rousing core, Nuttall, Banks and Kassam. That might play in the Anglocentric media but does bugger all to shift their poll rating up here. Last time I looked, it was about 4%, way below the 15% they poll ‘nationally’. Then again, I suppose we’ve got enough empty vessels of our own, and all that.
Looking at the rules of power, Farage appears to have taken on board the rule about “In victory, learn when to stop”. Nuttall will need to disprove another rule of power, the one about “Avoiding stepping into a Great Man’s shoes” if he is to be a success. In spite of his claim, and given the usual unquestioning coverage by the anglocentric media, that his party can replace Labour, the old political tectonic plates are already moving against his party. Nuttall might think that UKIP should survive to keep politicians feet to the fire regarding the referendum, but I think that UKIP’s future isn’t as a standalone party but as an ideal within the Conservative Party, fulfilling it’s early comparisons as a UK version of the Tea Party. Given that led to Trump, then heaven help us.