UKIP Party Conference: A Scary Vision

The United Kingdom Independence Party is currently the third most popular party in the country. They are, according to recent You-Gov polls, joint third on eleven percent, tied with the Liberal Democrats. It was not long ago that this crazy party was considered a laughing-stock, only doing well in European elections. The most recent example being when they finished joint second and landed 13 MEP’s in 2009. However, when it came to council and national elections, UKIP failed to make an impact. Council seats were sparse and they failed to gain a single MP – which even the Green’s and Respect party hold. However, UKIP have made a surge in the past 18 months, cleaning up in the local elections with 147 Councillors to their name. Nigel Farage is using a strategy similar to the Liberal Democrats. They want to win council seats and take control of councils, afterwards fielding candidates in those areas already penetrated, to try and steal the seat from the incumbent. This is a strategy which works well. The Liberal Democrats hold 57 MP’s built upon a multitude of Councillors winning the allegiance and trust of the constituents and then penetrating in the general election. They have also polled well in by elections although by-elections are known for their protest votes. UKIP are no longer a joke.

Two weeks ago it was UKIP’s party conference. It only lasted a day, however that day was marked with scandal with Godfrey Bloom. Bloom is one of 13 MEP’s the party holds, a former UKIP whip and defence spokesman for the party caused a raucous. He first called all women in the audience “sluts” as a joke, referencing antiquated terminology for a woman who doesn’t clean.  A short time later he hit a reporter with the UKIP brochure because the reporter dared to ask why there was no black faces on it, instead the brochure was a simply haunting reflective white face glow. This took up all the media headlines, showing a party which is still in denial about the problems at the core of the organisation. Farage was fuming and Bloom had the whip taken away from him. However Bloom may have done them a favour, because otherwise the media would have focused on the substance of the conference. Bloom has announced he will defect as an independent but has claimed he will still retain membership of the party. It seems UKIP is trying to cleanse its ranks of the lunacy which has previously inhabited it.

Paul Nuttall is UKIP’s deputy leader and education spokesperson. He is considered one of the more sensible and adroit leaders of party. In his speech he outlined severe problems with education and the UKIP ‘appeal’. He argued that in the European elections they took safe Labour heartlands. However, this is something which in the European elections, with a low turnout and minority parties always picking up more of the vote isn’t a difficult thing to do. He also argued that they are polling in the north ahead of the Conservatives and polling at double that of the Liberal Democrats, but once again this isn’t difficult. Mr Nuttall, as education spokesman, needs some education on polling numbers and what they mean it seems. Mr Nuttall went on to attack Labour on their immigration record arguing that the most damage was done to working class communities. Wages were driven downwards, which is true. However the national minimum wage and working tax credits were implemented to try to drive up wages and supplement low earners. Labour has called for a new living wage, but Mr Nuttall never mentioned this as it fails to fit in to his anti-immigration spiel.

Indeed, the focus of his speech against Labour was on immigration and called the amount of immigration, which is not set out in the Labour manifesto, “a disgrace”. Mr Nuttall also argued against the Human Rights Act calling it a ‘criminals’ charter’. Oh yes Paul, protecting people’s basic rights does indeed do criminals a favour… Tim Akers speech,  who is the head of UKIP public policy (they wanted to buy it off the shelf just months ago), was a monotone of benefits, immigration and EU disadvantages. Even on this weeks Question Time, Patrick O’Flynn’s main message was that immigration and multiculturalism haven’t worked. Fifteen percent of people believe that immigration is a serious problem, yet nationally only six percent believe it is a problem in their local community. This is because parties like UKIP claim there is a problem and people believe it, yet where they live more than half who do believe immigration is a problem do not see any such issue where they live. UKIP’s bold claim that they are leading debates is a fantasy. Their achievement has been to scoop up members in its opposition to gay marriage and the EU. They are not being listened to on any of the other real issues, ranging from education to environmental policy. As long as this is the case, their poll ratings will not move and even decline as people as stated before don’t see immigration as a major issue which needs tackling.