A ‘Just Vote UKIP’ Strategy, to Stop May’s Imminent Brexit-Betrayal, Will Not Work

As a strategy specifically to stop Theresa May’s & her Vichy-Conservatives’ now arguably imminent betrayal of Brexit, implicit in her refusal to budge from her discredited Chequers Plan, ‘Just Vote UKIP’ on its own sadly isn’t going to work 

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17th August 2018

A number of the responses to my The Conservative Woman Saturday Essay of 11th August, titled ‘How to Resist the Remainers’, appeared to find my suggestions for how a peaceful, legal, non-violent mass civic resistance might confront and hopefully thwart the May government’s impending probable dilution, if not outright abandonment, of Brexit somewhat too robust and risky for their taste.

And to think, moreover, that all that was required to stop such a betrayal in its tracks would be to start, resume, or continue, voting UKIP, or even merely threaten to do so.

Poster I'm Voting UKIP

The question of which great democratic advances have ever been achieved, or what anti-democratic obstacles to them have ever been surmounted, without anyone taking any risks whatsoever, is a moot point, but one perhaps to be re-visited later. But, as a strategy specifically for preventing what is arguably a now imminent Brexit adulteration at best and betrayal at worst, I’m afraid that ‘Just Vote UKIP’ doesn’t cut it.

That isn’t an overall condemnation of UKIP or its members and supporters per se, although there certainly are some specific criticisms which can be levelled at it, and are made below. But it is an observation that the both the electoral timetable, and current opinion polling, strongly suggest that, as a strategy whose aim is to stop May’s likely upcoming Brexit-betrayal, then it is, regrettably, probably doomed to failure.              

In the first place, ‘Just Vote UKIP’ in what? And when? Let’s consider the electoral timetable. 

The earliest upcoming UK elections are the next UK local government elections, due to be held on 2nd May 2019: unless the Article 50 period is extended, that is approximately 5 weeks after 29th March, the date on which the UK will have, albeit probably more in appearance than in substance, nominally left the EU.

What would be the argument to persuade non-activists or non-members that there was any point in voting UKIP? And even if there was such an argument, how effective would it be? In the 2018 local elections, the party lost no fewer than 123 of its 126 councillors: 2019’s are in more metropolitan-type areas, where its appeal, rightly or wrongly, is even less. Comparatively-speaking, its local government base, at 125 councillors out of a total of over 20,000, is minimal.

The next European Parliament elections are from 23rd to 26th May 2019: again, unless the Article 50 period is extended, approximately two months after the 29th March exit date. Even with a nominal-only Brexit on that date, the UK will no longer be sending MEPs to the European Parliament, and so will not even participate. The memories of 2014’s victory, where UKIP secured 27 percent of the vote and more than doubled its seats to 24, are no guide to the future.

If (admittedly a big ‘if’) May survives as Prime Minister, even with a small majority thanks to the Democratic Unionist Party, the next General Election is not due until 5th May 2022, which will be four years after the projected Brexit date.

We are already now seeing polling reports suggesting ordinary voters on both sides of the Leave-Remain divide are bored with Brexit, just two years after the Referendum, and before it has even happened. What appeal and chance of success would UKIP have some four years after the actual Brexit, even a nominal one?       

Although dissatisfaction with May’s Soft-Remain, Brexit-In-Name-Only Chequers Plan is thought to be a contributor to the recent boost in membership, the party is currently standing at an average of just 6 per cent in the polls

Britain Elects to July 2018

Under First-Past-The-Post, this is far too low to make an impact: in the 2015 General Election, UKIP captured 3.9 million votes and 13 per cent of the total vote, but still gained only two seats, both of which have since been lost.

In the second place, vote for whom? Consider the recent leadership history.

At TCW, I have previously criticised Nigel Farage for leaving the field of battle too early, but since his 2016 departure, UKIP has in effect wasted the last two years. It has gone through a credible leader and deputy leader in Diane James and Suzanne Evans, both seen off by the residual Continuity-Farageistes, and two utter clowns in firstly, Paul Nuttall, and secondly, Henry Bolton, before stabilising to an extent under the current leadership of Gerard Batten.

But Batten’s term of office comes to an end, intriguingly, around the time of Britain’s projected exit date of 29th March 2019, and Farage is hinting at a return. Interestingly, elements within UKIP are reported to be less than wholly enthusiastic at the prospect.

So for whom would anyone starting or re-considering voting UKIP actually be voting?

Moreover, UKIP’s complement of MEPs has thinned out since its 2014 high-water mark due to a couple of expulsions and several resignations: although it does retain some very good MEPs, activists and members, notably Margot Parker, Roger Helmer, and David Kurten, the appeal of a party which has unfortunately managed to alienate and drive away plausible, articulate and media-friendly people like Suzanne Evans and Steven Woolfe is likely to be limited.

To be fair, there is one scenario in which one could imagine the ‘Just Vote UKIP’ strategy having a chance of success. But it would require all of the following to come to fruition:

  1. Brexit to be deferred or cancelled;
  2. the majority of the ‘Conservative’ Party to accept that without demur;
  3. a mass defection of both former UKIP-to-Tory movers and always-Conservative Brexiteers to UKIP;
  4. an electoral system less stacked against it; and
  5. a media less biased against its core policy.

The prospect of a ‘Just vote UKIP to stop a Brexit betrayal’ strategy having to rely on Brexit being actually stopped or betrayed, in order to stand even a chance of success, does, I suppose, have a certain bleak irony about it.

But given the several discrete steps that it would require, it looks one hell of a risk to take for people apparently deterred from any form of peaceful, legal, non-violent mass civic resistance by the risk, inconvenience, and temporary relinquishment of online consumerism, which that might allegedly entail.

Update / Postscript

Having now had more time to review the below-the-line comments to the original article at The Conservative Woman, three of the generic memes which seem to re-occur throughout a number of them warrant a response:

“typical Tory comment / keep on voting Tory then”

Presumably, out of my fifteen or so TCW articles so far in 2018, the eight at least which have fiercely criticised May’s Vichy-‘Conservatives’ in general and her duplicitous Soft-Remain Brexit-In-Name-Only in particular, the two of them which specifically called for her to be ousted and replaced with a committed Brexiteer, and the one which even explicitly advocated the Party’s demise, have been ignored.

“you’re offering no solutions, you’re just sneering at UKIP

In what way does saying that the party retains some very good people, but observing factually that the combination of an adverse electoral timetable and its current opinion-polls standing at present limit its potential as a preventer of the Brexit-betrayal which is imminent, constitute ‘sneering at UKIP’?

“but it was only the threat of UKIP that made Cameron to hold the EU Referendum”

Very probably, but that was when it was polling at a constant 11-12%, and later, had won the 2014 European Parliament election with 24 MEPs and 27 per cent of the vote. Under First-Part-The-Post, parties polling at around 6 per cent do not represent a threat – just ask the Greens.

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From Shoe-In to Toss-Up

Via the ineptitude of its candidate, and hostility from its residual Farageistes, UKIP has managed to convert the Stoke Central by-election from a virtual one-way shoe-in into an uncertain three-way toss-up.

On the face of it, UKIP’s choice of candidate to contest the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election caused by the resignation of Labour’s Tristram Hunt should have been obvious, and uncomplicated.

Here was a constituency where, on the best available estimate, the Leave vote in the EU Referendum was a massive 69.4%: where the voters hadn’t returned a Conservative MP in decades: where there was widespread disaffection with a Labour Party dominated by London-centric Metropolitan New-Leftism rather than traditional working-class empathy: and where UKIP put up a very creditable showing at the 2015 General Election.

stoke-ge-2015-results-pcsIt’s worth examining that latter result in more detail. UKIP came from 5th in 2010 on a measly 1.1%, to 2nd in 2015 on 22.7% with an 18.3 swing to it. In a General Election where the Conservatives achieved among their highest-ever number of seat gains, they didn’t even manage to come 2nd in Stoke Central, being pipped by UKIP into 3rd place.

This surely should have suggested UKIP re-selecting its 2015 candidate, Mick Harold, to contest the seat. As a Stoke Councillor, Chairman of UKIP’s Stoke branch, and Deputy Chairman of its Staffordshire County Committee, he appeared to have experience plus an established public profile, in both local government and local party, strong enough to stand a real chance of taking the seat from Labour.

And a real chance, moreover, not only on his own merits. Because Labour had selected, to try and retain its Stoke Central seat, the execrably foul-mouthed, mendacious, misogynistic Gareth Snell, most notable, among a string of other gaffes, for describing Brexit as “a pile of shit” to his own Brexit-voting constituency, and arguably the most repellent Labour candidate that even seasoned commentators can remember.

snell-stoke-tweet-gaffes-compEnter, however, UKIP’s recently-elected new Leader, Paul Nuttall. Already an elected UKIP MEP in the European Parliament, it’s an intriguing, albeit ultimately futile, exercise to speculate on what Nuttall’s real motives were.

Perhaps he genuinely felt the party leader belonged in Westminster, not in Brussels/Strasbourg. Perhaps he wanted to show that, within only months of being elected, he could do what Nigel Farage never managed to do in all his years as Leader, namely, win a House of Commons seat. Perhaps he saw a Westminster seat as a convenient replacement for his Brussels/Strasbourg one when the UK exits the EU before the next European Parliament elections in 2019. Who knows?

Whatever the reason, though, Nuttall decided to seek UKIP’s candidature, and was duly selected. Whether Harold was “persuaded” to stand aside, or did so entirely voluntarily, as his statement on it insists, is perhaps another intriguing subject for speculation.

Nuttall, though, is a clown. It didn’t take long for the first evidence to surface, in the shape of the now-infamous Hillsborough imbroglio, when Nuttall claimed to have lost “close personal friends” in the disaster. 

nuttall-hillsborough-website

Had the final paragraph merely read “…when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives.”, his statement would still have been – and rightly so – a searing condemnation of the Government’s obfuscation of key facts relevant to determining blame. It did not lack power. It did not need the addition of the “including close personal friends of mine” to give it extra force. So whatever persuaded him to add such an unnecessary, self-serving, and easily-verifiable-as-untruthful embellishment? As so often, over-egging the pudding merely leaves the chef with egg on his face.

Following that, we had the “new address” fiasco. Even if, as claimed, Nuttall’s original move to Stoke was delayed because of a vacancy / chain issue, why was the necessity for a Stoke address not resolved the minute Nuttall indicated an interest in the constituency? Is it such a rental hotspot? And how inept is it to allow one’s self to be photographed quite clearly camping out in a hastily newly-acquired “home”? No journalist worth their salt, however un-biased, could fail to run with a “carpetbagging” narrative in those circumstances.

nuttall-bolton-2017Then there’s the missing weekend. Despite it being the last weekend of campaigning before the Thursday 23rd February polling day, Nuttall was apparently AWOL from Stoke for most of it, attending the UKIP Spring Conference in Bolton, where he made a somewhat bizarre “They will not break me”-themed speech.

Was his attendance in person really necessary, Party Leader or not, on the last weekend before a crucial by-election? Could a speech to Spring Conference via video-link not have been arranged? Or was it vital, despite the risk to the by-election campaign, to prevent Farage in effect taking over the Conference? 

To be fair, it hasn’t all been of Nuttall’s own making. Most of the so-called “independent” Press has been its usual homogeneously ‘liberal’-left biased, pro-EU self, determined to report in a bad light any policies, or parties, outside what’s deemed to be the acceptable Overton Window of British politics. But it’s also inescapable that the inept, bumbling Nuttall has given it a cornucopia of material to work with.

There is, however an additional factor. The friendly-fire, the blue-on-blue incoming from the Farageiste Falange.

2017-02-22-banks-hillsborough-compThe “Hillsborough” furore had largely died down by last week, the narrative having run its course and the last drop of press mileage having been squeezed out of it: until, that is, Arron Banks, major UKIP funder but also, I’d suggest, eminence grise of the Farageistes, tweeted a reference to Hillsborough having been an “accident”.

Whatever Hillsborough was or wasn’t, it certainly wasn’t an accident: and though subsequent Banks tweets have correctly referred to it as a disaster, that has been enough to revive the entire controversy to Nuttall’s detriment: as have the allusions to Banks being “sick of hearing about it”. Given Nuttall’s Merseyside origins, it’s difficult to believe the choice of the word “accident” was itself accidental.

Hard on the heels of that, at UKIP’s Bolton Spring Conference, came Farage’s “helpful” intervention that “Nuttall must win Stoke”, and that a win in the by-election there is “fundamental to the party’s future”. You might think this is a bit rich coming from an ex-Leader who serially failed to get elected as an MP, but we’ll let that pass.

What it does, of course, is to make Nuttall’s position as Leader hostage to electoral fortune, and imply that, should he fail, his leadership is inimical to UKIP’s future electoral prospects. Or, put another way: all other candidates having now been eliminated, Farage fancies yet another crack?

So what has been the cumulative effect of all this? As of early evening Wednesday 22 February, and per Ladbrokes, Labour are back as 4/7 favourites, despite having been seemingly been behind for much of the campaign: UKIP have drifted out to 2/1, having previously been favourites: and the Conservatives have come from nowhere to be at 7/1 and talking up their own chances of pulling off a surprise . Yes, in Stoke.

stoke-odds-1838-wed-23feb17Quite how UKIP has managed to achieve this, after starting out from a position of apparently unassailable advantage, almost beggars belief. In the space of a few short weeks, and having been initially blessed with what were, for it, virtually the most favourable circumstances imaginable, it’s converted what should have been a foregone conclusion into a very close-run thing.

That Labour could pull it off, with a victory for by far the foulest candidate, standing for by far the least-deserving party, is an appalling prospect. But if so, UKIP will have no-one to blame but itself.

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