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Friday 30 November 2012

UKIP Fails The Protest Test

[Update at end of post]

Many years ago – we’re going back to the days when what was then just the Liberal Party really could get all its MPs in the back of a London taxi – when Parliamentary by-elections came round, there was the opportunity for a protest vote. This would be aimed at the Government of the day, who would lose a seat to the Liberals, only to regain it convincingly at the next General Election.
The list was once as memorable – Orpington, Birmingham Ladywood, Ripon – as the reversion of the seats was predictable. The Liberals were barely relevant then in Parliament, but they did a cracking by-election campaign. Well, now their successors are in Government, and so when voters want to show momentary displeasure, they have to look elsewhere. Like to Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and UKIP.

UKIP never look close to taking seats at General Elections. But the favourable coverage they have been receiving – generally, from the Europhobes in the press, and specifically with the Rotherham fostering row – plus the ability to put more resources into by-elections, meant they should have had at least one Old Liberal Party Protest Moment last night. They didn’t get any.

Given the abysmally low 33.6% turnout in Rotherham, UKIP had the opportunity, but despite coming second did not seriously trouble a Labour candidate who was not the first choice of many party members. As they are no longer the party of mid-term protest, it was no surprise that the Lib Dems lost their deposit. And the Tories have nothing to smile about, as their vote collapsed too.

True, UKIP also came second in Middlesbrough, but the turnout appears to be even worse than that in Rotherham, and getting 12% of the popular vote isn’t going to get anyone into Parliament (UKIP were also second in the Barnsley Central by-election recently, but again were nowhere near troubling the Labour winner). And coming third in Croydon North masks their only just retaining their deposit.

The only place where UKIP have secured electoral success is in elections for the European Parliament (EP), where persistent low turnout, whipped-up Europhobia and a proportional system all play to the party’s strengths. But that EP presence is going to increasingly come under fire as Farage and his pals’ presence on the expenses gravy train yields little more than the odd yah-boo protest moment.

And the first hint that exit from the EU will cause manufacturers and finance houses to up sticks from the UK – someone has forgotten why Nissan, Toyota and Honda came to Washington, Derby and Swindon in the first place – will hole the good ship UKIP below the waterline. Nigel Farage ought to think on before he cackles a little too loudly into his third pint of Landlord.

Because this is as good as it’s going to get for his party.

[UPDATE 1345 hours: as if to prove me right, one of Farage's supporters has Tweeted a particularly nasty smear illustrating not only their sour grapes at not capturing Rotherham, but the true nature of the party's modus operandi.
"Labour & union activists were telling voters they'd know if they voted UKIP in Roth & they'd lose council hse" was the gist of this particular attack. How voters were known to have council houses in the first place - given that the Council is not the only provider of social housing in Rotherham, and much of the local authority housing stock has already been sold off - is not told. Maybe someone should have engaged brain before Tweeting.
Also not engaging brain is the flannelled fool Henry Cole, odious tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, who has retweeted the smear with the endorsement "V big shout". What will Tom Watson make of all that, I wonder? Another fine mess]


joe said...

Tim, that guy is Harry Cole not Henry.

Has he aged badly in the last few weeks? :|

Or have I completley missed the plot...again.

Tim Fenton said...

Harry is the familiar version of Henry. Master Cole admits to being called Harry in the same manner as Prince Hal, who was of course crowned as King Henry.

Plus, if you're going to wind up the unpleasant SOB, best do it properly.