Local election campaigns are in full swing across the country (although not here in Southend-on-Sea) and there is only one story that seems to be coming out. This story isn’t about whether Labour will make gains against the Tories. The story isn’t about whether the Lib Dems will stop the hemorrhaging of votes/councillors. The story isn’t about whether the austerity will hurt the Tories. The only story I keep reading about is the surge of the UK Independence Party and what this means for the future.
I must admit my gut feeling is that UKIP will be like a fast burning love affair. They will burn oh so bright but they will not burn for a long time. The fact of the matter is there are a significant number of people who don’t like nor trust politicians. The whole expenses scandal has left politicians looking up at journalists in the respected by stakes, which is not a good place to be. Heck divorce lawyers are more respected than politicians at the moment. UKIP are promising a breath of fresh air and to put Great Britain first and not to kowtow to Brussels and the EU. It isn’t like the UKIP leader has taken (to 2009) around £2million in tax payers money from the EU in expenses. Oh wait…
They are basically scratching the itch of those who are disenchanted with modern politics. They are different they say. The system is crooked they say. Nigel Farage has seen a stronger eye on his party in recent days as it has come out that they have struggled to vet their candidates. Some of them seem to be less than desirable and certainly not the type of people you’d want in any position of power. The main issue is a lot of people vote for the party and not the candidate so if you don’t vet properly then you may find you have councillors representing the party who don’t truly reflect the views of the party.
The UKIP leader is not happy with all of this, ‘Have you met the cretins we have in Westminster? Do you think we can be worse than that?’ exclaims the 49 year-old. On one hand he has a point that all parties have the odd person who deep down you aren’t sure truly reflects the parties values and you get a sense they aren’t being their true self. When it comes to UKIP though who knows?
However this blog isn’t about that. It is about the talk over the possibility of more PM TV Debates in 2015. Stories in the press over the weekend have linked Labour to the Tories in wanting to keep out UKIP. Remember Labour do not want the Lib Dems in because they formed a coalition with the Tories so think any Lib Dem leader should share a platform with the Tories and Labour’s deputies because that is as high as they could ever be. Gotta love Labour’s stance on that. So in Labour’s eyes any debate would be two-way between them and the Tories. The Tories are happy for three-way with the Lib Dems also involved. We don’t know the Lib Dem view as yet.
My view though is extremely simplistic. If a party is putting up enough candidates to form a government then their leader should be invited to join the other leaders in these debates. The SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and others were unhappy about being left out last time but none of them were fielding enough candidates to form a government and their leader could never be Prime Minister so their place in any ‘Prime Ministerial Debate’ did seem relatively pointless. The likelihood though is that UKIP will be putting up enough candidates across the country and in the interest of democracy they deserve the to share that platform in my eyes.
We saw last time that Nick Clegg’s profile rose dramatically throughout the process last year and at one point, in one Sunday poll the Lib Dems actually led. As we all know though that extra exposure translated to over a million more votes but actually fewer MPs. It also led to far more scrutiny in the right-wing media as they went to town on the Lib Dems and on Nick Clegg in particular. This worked to some degree and should Nigel Farage and his party get the same exposure they would be subject to the same level of scrutiny.
My feelings on UKIP are pretty clear but I also believe in fairness and equality (good liberal traits there) and if UKIP are in a position where they could feasibility (no matter how unlikely) form a government if everything went right for them on polling day in 2015 then they deserve the right to share that platform. It is up to the other parties and particularly their leaders to show UKIP for what they are and to get the public to vote for them and not Nigel Farage’s lot.
The thing is we all know that the moment UKIP get any power (either at local or national level) the public will quickly realise what they have done. At a local level voting UKIP will not change anything to do with the EU or tax rates or immigration which is basically what UKIP are all about. So a vote for UKIP locally on Thursday is basically saying, ‘we hate them all and even though they can’t follow through with their primary objectives in local governments we’ll vote for them as a symbol of our anger towards national issues.’ When it comes to national issues though their rhetoric of being anti-EU and anti-foreigners is actually something they could act on.
UKIP are unlikely to ever have a Prime Minister, they are unlikely to ever be in a position to form a coalition but as they say – you never know. UKIP’s core support is with the older generation – a YouGov poll in February found that only 15% of UKIP support comes from those under 40 – the fact is the older generation are more likely to vote.
For me I don’t see UKIP as a viable party and are just a protest against the status quo and the current financial climate. The moment the economy pulls itself out of its funk and the countries finances are balanced then the need for a protest party will dissipate. This will happen but it won’t happen before 2015. So let UKIP play with the established parties and give them the opportunities that they deserve. I just hope they shoot themselves in the foot when they are under a serious national spotlight. It is easy to protest when their are few repercussions but when it comes to a General Election protests are harder because actions (and votes) have consequences.
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