Friday 21 October 2016
UKIP – Goodbye and Good Riddance
In March this year, I wrote on this blog a post entitled ‘Will UKIP Cease to Exist after the EU Referendum?’ I speculated that after the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) referendum, whichever way the result went, UKIP would probably fade away from politics in this country. Getting a referendum on our membership and then campaigning to leave the organisation was the party’s raison d’etre and if we voted to stay, the issue would be dead for years to come. If we voted to leave, then they would have achieved their objective and their members could safely (re)-join the Tories.
It should be said, they were successful in forcing the referendum by worrying the Tory government (and MPs) about taking votes from them in the 2015 general election. This made the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, promise the referendum within two years of the election. Which, as we now know, was a fatal error from Cameron, who has now left politics altogether.
In the general election of 2015, as it turned out, UKIP took just as many, if not more votes from Labour than the Tories, particularly in Labour's northern heartlands, and the party thought that this trend would continue, with even their leader, Nigel Farage, talking about standing in a Labour held seat at the next general election. UKIP’s stated aim was to replace Labour as the opposition to the Tories, after the 2015 election.
Since the referendum, things have not gone so well for UKIP. Members have started to drift away and join the Tories, you can read about three UKIP activists who have made this journey on the Conservative Home website. The rumours are that thousands of UKIP members have now joined (or re-joined) the Tory Party. The Tories have stolen UKIP’s grammar school policy and appear to be heading for an uncompromisingly ‘hard’ Brexit from the EU, so UKIP seem to be redundant as a political force.
At the beginning of October, UKIP’s newly elected leader, Diane James, resigned after only 18 days in the job, saying publicly that it was for personal reasons (politicians always say that), amid talk of clashes with senior members of the party’s hierarchy.
Last week, two of their MEPs were involved in what was described as an ‘altercation’, with one, Steven Woolfe, ending up in hospital. Woolfe has since left UKIP, and will probably join the Tory Party now, which is reportedly what the altercation was about. Of course, when we leave the EU, all of UKIP’s MEPs will also be redundant, and the party will be deprived of substantial funding from the EU. Wealthy donors also appear to backing away from the party too.
But UKIP have, by and large, kept their opinion poll ratings in double figures since the EU referendum, until now. A poll by Ipsos MORI published on Wednesday, only gives UKIP a 6% share of the vote, so it looks as though the voters are drifting away as well, and probably to the Tories (who are on 47% in the same poll). It is true though that this polling company has had UKIP lower than the other pollsters for a while now, but never this low, for the last couple of years.
Then we had yesterday’s by-election in Witney, the former constituency of the resigned Prime Minister, David Cameron, where the UKIP candidate finished behind the Green Party candidate, polling just 3.5% of the vote, down from 9.1% at last year’s general election.
It looks as though my predictions from March about the demise of UKIP are turning out to be pretty accurate. They may not be completely finished yet, but it is just a matter of time, and they will probably have largely disappeared by the time we do leave the EU.
As we know, there is a small constituency vote for the far right in this country, which the BNP have exploited in the past, to some extent, and UKIP could carry on courting these voters, but the high water mark for UKIP has passed. The future looks to be of a terminal decline.
Their brand of xenophobia come racism will not be missed.