By Campaign Agent Joe Monk
The main premise people hold for the United Kingdom Independence Party is that they are essentially a single-issue party that is solely dedicated to making Britain a sovereign and independent country, and to do this it means withdrawing its membership from the European Union. Despite criticisms from many within the Westminster establishment that they are a racist party and align themselves in the same arena as the British National Party, this didn’t seem to resonate with the electorate in recent elections. This is demonstrated by their success in the 2014 European elections in addition to securing two members of parliament and receiving in the region of four million votes at the 2015 general election. This was to prelude what the main architect of UKIP, Nigel Farage, and the party’s main ambition was, which was to win the EU referendum, thus causing a massive earthquake in British politics and sparking a rise of populism across the European continent.
The irony is that achieving their sole purpose has seen the demise of the party, most notably its collapse of the vote in the 2017 election due to the inevitable nature of the Conservatives pledging to fulfil the will of the people as the governing party, meaning voters that originally defected to UKIP have now returned to their natural homes. Their demise has also been comprised of divisions within the party as to what direction they should now take. In addition to Nigel Farage resigning as leader, this has seen various successors try to follow in his wake, and each one has failed. The current leader, Gerard Batten, has sparked much fear and anxiety by provoking a resurgence of the national front by portraying the party as anti-Islam, which has been further exacerbated with the welcoming of Tommy Robinson as an adviser to the leader. Robinson, the founder and former member of the English Defence League, is admired by Batten for his hostility to the religion of Islam which he believes is responsible for recent terrorist activity that has caused devastation in Britain. As a result of his appointment, many within UKIP have withdrawn their membership. These are senior figures as well, including the likes of the former leader, Paul Nuttall; the former deputy leader, Suzanne Evans; and most resounding of all, the creator and heartbeat of UKIP, Nigel Farage. Evans claimed her reasons for leaving were that Batten is now taking the party away from being an anti-Islamist party, and more towards and anti-Islam party.
This does provoke much concern especially in the midst of Brexit and the implications that follow from this. If a deal cannot be agreed and Parliament rejects May’s deal, and no deal is the only alternative, this will generate more support for holding a second referendum. This could actually be seen to benefit UKIP, given that a second referendum would be seen as going against the will of the people, giving more impetus for a revival of UKIP that could act as a voice for those considered as feeling left behind and ignored by the establishment. This time it would be more direct given that their votes for leaving the European Union would merely be cast aside. Essentially, the Westminster elite would be telling them that they voted wrong the first time round and must vote correctly next time. This is one of the main catalysts for the rise of populist movements that have been very notable in countries such as Germany, Austria, Sweden, Italy and Greece, where populist parties here are either in opposition or have some influence in government. Britain’s electoral system has meant that populist parties have often failed to break the mould of the two-party system, thus tending to fade away after relentless attempts to do the contrary. In Britain’s electoral climate, populist parties have to compromise as often they haven’t got the widespread resources to generate a widespread manifesto focusing on an array of issues. Therefore, they place attention on single issues that they know will generate much support and force the mainstream parties to alter their ‘middle England’ positions that Tony Blair employed in his 1997 success. This comes with the realisation that they will eventually fall off the political landscape, but their reward for this sacrifice is that mainstream parties will feel as if they’re operating under a check and balance system, and that averting away from controversial policies by sticking to the centre-ground will have consequences.
The evidence here shows that UKIP could actually make a revival into contemporary British politics. It would be seen to work in their favour if a second referendum were to be called. The cause for concern though is the recent reshuffle of the party. Tommy Robinson is never shy from the press, and his recent spell in prison caused a massive upsurge in protest against his imprisonment, resonating with so many people that even far-right activists in America were demanding his release. This would have massive implications for society which would add fuel to the already hostile nature citizens are currently living in. The fact that motives of senior officials to resign is in response to the hostile nature of the party in pursuing a far-right agenda, it makes it more an imperative that the calamities around the Brexit deal are resolved and a fair compromise can be reached so that upsurges in far-right activity is minimised, in addition to the government then having more freedom to tackle domestic issues that currently persist.
Sources and Further Reading
Sophie McIntyre – ‘How many seats did UKIP win?’, Independent (7th May 2015)
Rory Tingle – ‘Nigel Farage QUITS Ukip in protest over new leader Gerard Batten’s appointment of Tommy Robinson as adviser on “Muslim rape gangs”’, Daily Mail (4th December 2018)
Peter Walker – ‘Gerard Batten drags Ukip further right with harsh anti-Islam agenda’, The Guardian (21st September 2018)
Matthew Weaver – ‘Ukip resignations plunge party into further turmoil’, The Guardian (7th December 2018)
Lizzie Dearden – ‘Tommy Robinson arrested for `breaching the peace` outside court during grooming trial’, Independent (25th May 2018)