UKIP’s failure will be due to flawed strategy

‘UKIP’s failure?’ I hear some UKIP supporters ask.  ‘We are rising in the polls, we’ve added 13,000 members since 2013, we are taking votes from the Tories and Labour, we are the main challengers in a number of seats, we are favourites to win most votes in this year’s Euro elections, the other parties running scared,’ are comments that are repeatedly made in threads on newspaper websites and blogs. But there is good reason to believe the foundations underpinning these claims are soft.

We will come to the polling in a moment, but first we need to set the scene and look at UKIP’s prospects in this year’s Euro elections.  Farage has talked up the party’s prospects and its members are highly confident that UKIP will win the most votes in the election.  However the Euro polls are still showing that UKIP is behind Labour and will likely only come second at best.  There is even still a chance the Tory vote could just squeak them into second at UKIP’s expense.  It’s worth remembering UKIP’s total vote in 2009 (2,498,226) actually fell from that in 2004 (2,650,768) despite a larger electorate.

This time around, if the party can’t secure the most votes in the Euros, even in these perfect conditions for a protest vote, huge media coverage and a core support that will definitely turn out while millions of Labour and Tory voters will not bother themselves with a trip to the polling station, then success in the 2015 General Election is a pipe dream. Don’t forget, just a year after the 2009 Euro elections, in 2010 at the General Election, UKIP’s total vote fell to 919,546 (with the BNP on 564,331).  That’s a lot votes loaned to the party in meaningless Euro elections that go somewhere else when people are asked to elect a government.  Although with UKIP hoovering up BNP supporters and votes along with disaffected Tories and previous non voters who wish to register their disgust at the three main parties, it would be realistic to see UKIP get well in excess of 1,700,000 in 2015 – possibly even clearing the 2 million mark with room to spare.  But that won’t translate into seats.

Back to polling then.  While polling in some marginal seats funded by Alan Bown has UKIP, when the figures include undecided voters and those who refuse to say who they will vote for, as high as 19% (Thanet South) and 16% (Great Grimsby), nationally the party is still rooted stubbonly around the 13% mark.  But the polls are not telling the whole story here because it is impossible to tell from them what the effect of the BNP’s collapse is.

We know a number of white working class Labour voters defected to the BNP.  With the BNP imploding we know anecdotally that many of their members have been attracted to UKIP as the next best alternative by the immigration message that has taken centre stage.   This 13% average UKIP polling figure is a lower percentage than before the May 2013 local elections in which UKIP won a number of district and county council seats.  There is no breakthrough at the moment and UKIP’s position, third in the national polls, is only that way because the Lib Dems are being punished by former supporters for being in coalition with the Conservatives and have seen a lot of their support desert to Labour. These numbers and other factors considered, we will not see UKIP win any Westminster seats in 2015.  Despite much bravado, it seems that UKIP is hitting a glass ceiling of support.

What does this suggest?  A failure of UKIP’s own making.  What voters are now seeing is a party of blatant contradiction they cannot trust, whose offering is nothing more than a dustbin for protest votes,  ‘vote for us because we’re not Conservative/Labour’, which is offering nothing positive or differentiated of its own.

In the south people see UKIP promoting itself as the alternative to the Conservatives and trying to appeal to those who want low tax, smaller government, shrinking welfare budgets, stronger defence etc. People who are attracted by Farage lauding Margaret Thatcher, in a clear message that he is positioning himself to them as Thatcherite.

In the north people see UKIP promoting itself as the alternative to Labour and trying to appeal to those who believe in government running most things, funded by higher levels of tax than the south want, preserving or even increasing welfare budgets, who would like strong defence because many young men and women from the region join the forces in the absence of other opportunities.  People who are attracted by pictures of Farage drinking bitter in a pub, in a clear message that he is positioning himself as an ordinary working class bloke.

The two are too mutually exclusive, and thanks to national media and 24 hour news, this ‘all things to all men’ strategy employed by Farage is all too visible to voters who will rightly feel it is nothing more than an electoral ploy, saying different things to different people based on what UKIP thinks they want to hear.

While some voters will feel moved to support UKIP regardless, when it comes to putting an ‘X’ on a ballot paper, will that be enough for UKIP to hold on to enough potential supporters in the north and south respectively, who see the party’s schizophrenic pronouncements in different parts of the country?  People who loathe the blue or red side so much they would vote tactically for whoever is best placed to form a government that would keep Cameron/Miliband out of Downing Street.  That’s the crux of the matter.

No matter whether the party is comprised of enthusiastic amateurs or professional political animals, as a strategy it may result in some short term gains.  But in the long term it is doomed to failure. Depressingly, as that happens, so the Eurosceptic cause as a whole will be adversely affected.

17 Responses to “UKIP’s failure will be due to flawed strategy”


  1. 1 Flyinthesky 05/02/2014 at 11:38 am

    You could apply that indictment to the other parties, I’m not defending UKIP per se but the political excercise is to be the most things to most people even if it takes lies and deception to further it. The game is to get elected and take it from there.

  2. 2 lickyalips 05/02/2014 at 11:42 am

    The flaw in this article is this …

    >. With the BNP imploding we know anecdotally that many of their members have been attracted to UKIP as the next best alternative <<

    UKIP does not allow former BNP members to join them.
    In fact, they get Searchlight to vet applications for membership.

  3. 3 Richard North 05/02/2014 at 11:45 am

    The rub is that this is not a zero-sum game. If UKIP has the capacity to lift the anti-EU movement, it also has the capacity to damage it. A poorly performing UKIP, campaigning on the wrong issues in the wrong way, and attracting the wrong sort of media coverage, might still get votes but, in the longer term, will do us no good.

    Thus, the vote must be conditional on UKIP doing more good than harm. At the moment, I would suggest, the jury is out as to which it is.

  4. 4 Flyinthesky 05/02/2014 at 11:46 am

    Oh for and edit function,
    All the guns are out blazing, all the shovels are out digging because non in the club want to be turfed out of their comfy corners.
    If UKIP gain any traction in May then the fun will start, out will come the howitzers and excavators.

  5. 5 Richard North 05/02/2014 at 11:48 am

    @lickalips Former members may be excluded from the party, but they cannot be stopped from voting for UKIP.

  6. 6 The Wasp 05/02/2014 at 12:25 pm

    For all Dr North’s brilliance as a researcher he is sadly lacking in the finer art of winning supporters in his campaign to destroy UKIP. Perhaps his case is based on personal animosity towards Farage!

  7. 7 Autonomous Mind 05/02/2014 at 12:45 pm

    North doesn’t want to destroy UKIP, he wants it to do what is professes to exist to do. There’s a list as long as my arm of people who are fed up of Farage and have been dumped out of the party because Farage perceived them as a threat to him being leader.

    But that’s not the issue – the issue is the EUsceptic agenda and how it is undermined every time UKIP screws up. If you can’t see that by now, and God knows it’s been explained here and on EU Ref plenty of times, then there’s little hope for you.

  8. 8 The Wasp 05/02/2014 at 1:24 pm

    If Dr North has all the answers why does he not form a new party and lead the way out of the EU? If the list of UKIP defectors is as long as A.M. claims he would have a strong base on which to build.

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 05/02/2014 at 1:55 pm

    Because, as has also been explained numerous times here and on EU Ref, he is of a mind that the party political process will not succeed in bringing about the change that is needed – namely leaving the EU. The system is structured in a way that will defeat such an aim.

    Sure, a vote will need to be taken in Parliament by MPs to bring about the invoking of Article 50, but that action will be driven by a referendum brought about by grassroots pressure from a non-party political campaign, rather than any regular mechanism in the parliamentary process by the parties.

    Many former UKIP officials have left politics altogether. But Alan Sked has formed a new party, and has fallen into the same old trap of giving it a position on the so called political spectrum – as a ‘centre left’ party (called New Deal). He seems to be attracting some former UKIP members.

    Any other questions I can deal with?

  10. 10 The Wasp 05/02/2014 at 2:02 pm

    A.M. the gist of your message is that there is no hope of the U.K. leaving the E.U. Such a faint heart!

  11. 11 Furor Teutonicus 05/02/2014 at 2:22 pm

    XX ‘We are rising in the polls, we’ve added 13,000 members since 2013, we are taking votes from the Tories and Labour, we are the main challengers in a number of seats, we are favourites to win most votes in this year’s Euro elections, the other parties running scared,’ XX

    The AfD (Similar in outlook to UKIP) were doing the same here just before the last elections. Running RINGS around ALL the other partys in every “pre-election poll” going.

    Come voting day, they end up with 4,9%. Not enough to get into the Reichstag.

    Either it was fixed, or the public are not only a gang of imbiciles, but also imbicilic liars, when answering Poll questions.

  12. 12 tonyt 05/02/2014 at 2:29 pm

    There isn’t always right and wrong answers in all this as some is a matter of opinion and strategy.

    I’m inclined to agree with you and RN about the need for a non political campaign from grass roots to take us out of the EU. However there’s the rub, how do you get the grass roots support without getting wide exposure? Currently on the political stage and their stooge MSM, UKIP is the only thing out there for all its’ warts and faults.

    Constructive criticism of UKIP is to be welcomed in order that they improve their offering and help the cause not hinder it but sometimes it’s bordering on vitriolic and personal. The latter will have the effect of scaring away the very grass roots support your avenue so badly needs. Blogs like this and Richards are great for informing people of the reality of the situation but people have a long road to travel to get to the truth and if you scare them off by being too negative towards UKIP who they may have loyalty towards then that cannot be good.

    The thought occurs to me that standing outside the tent pissing in is too easy and that perhaps you need to be in the tent but then that’s what the pro EU people argue! Perhaps there isn’t a solution whatever UKIP do as the powers that be have the game so stitched up with FPTP and a compliant media and establishment all addicted to the EU teat? I think this is why it’s important not to be too dogmatic about criticism, because your solution may be wrong too and you’ll scare off possible supporters who have not gone through the thought process to where you are.

    In an ideal world, UKIP could be pushed into a more professional offer with many of the suggestions that you and RN put forward so that it is not a negative for the cause. Without people in the party pushing for that aim though it is perhaps unlikely but splitting the outer’s further cannot be the solution either.

    I don’t know the answers and am just putting some thoughts out there, not least the thought that we shouldn’t take dogmatic positions if we wish to win more people over to our way of thinking.

  13. 13 Autonomous Mind 05/02/2014 at 3:45 pm

    Wasp – I don’t know how you get that gist from my comment. The U.K. can most certainly escape the E.U. it just needs a different approach from the UKIP one that has achieved diddly squat in over 20 years. It also needs realism that a referendum isn’t going to be forced for perhaps another decade.

    Furor – I think what we saw with the AfD is what RN and I have been predicting will happen with UKIP, namely the polling booth factor. Once most voters are in that booth and about to lend their vote, thought processes take over such as, ‘if I vote ‘y’ then ‘z’ might take office and I don’t want that, so although I want to support ‘y’ I had better vote ‘w’ instead’.

    We saw it clearly in the 1992 General Election, where John Major was probably even more shocked at winning than Kinnock was at losing. Plus, if AfD supporters were anything like UKIP supporters are today, they probably assume the whole country is with them and that they really are the voice of the ‘silent majority’ because they see a few hundred people in comment threads agreeing with them and bellowing ‘Vote UKIP’.

  14. 14 Autonomous Mind 05/02/2014 at 3:56 pm

    Tony T – I completely understand where you’re coming from. The Norwegian grassroots campaign against the EU is a good example of how to get profile. If you put a powerful case, back it with expert knowledge and evidence that cannot be rebutted, and remain absolutely rigid in terms of honesty and integrity, then news organisations will eventually turn to you for comment.

    UKIP fail because they haven’t got anything to say beyond the same old hackneyed soundbites and poorly researched claims that Paul Nuttall fires off every week. Implorings for UKIP to set up a solid research unit to develop expert knowledge and become the ‘go to’ people for the media, fell on deaf Farage ears. He didn’t want to know. If there’s nothing new, the media will go elsewhere.

    It’s important to note that many more people say they want to leave the EU than say they would or do vote UKIP. The party does not speak for all EUsceptics. So many grassroots don’t have a party political home. Nevertheless, for now, we need UKIP to up its game because it is considered *the* foremost EUsceptic organisation.

    But you need to understand that UKIP ignores any ideas, information or expertise that does not originate from within the tiny group around Farage. If you aren’t on the leader’s approved list, you don’t exist and your ‘assistance’ is waved away. That should go some way to explaining the frustration I for one feel regarding Farage, Nuttall, Batten et al, which is then compounded by their God awful media management and lack of rigour in understanding the EU subject.

  15. 15 Furor Teutonicus 05/02/2014 at 4:16 pm

    XX thought processes take over such as, ‘if I vote ‘y’ then ‘z’ might take office and I don’t want that, so although I want to support ‘y’ I had better vote ‘w’ instead’. XX

    Good point. But I do not give the AVERAGE voter that much intelligence.

    They vote for whatever Granny voted for.

    Your “Stratagie theory”, yes, I have done it my self.

    My first choice was “Pro Deutschland.” BUT, as second choice the ONLY one that was not some form of commy craphead (and even THAT is debatable) was the NPD.* (“Pro” were for some reason not a choice on the second list(??!!)

    They stand a cats chance in Hel of getting anywhere, but they were “not the rest.”

    * Mia cullpa, Mia cullpa….

  16. 16 Nailer 05/02/2014 at 4:47 pm

    @The Wasp.

    Astonishingly naive. Quite breathtaking really. In fact, it’s actually spectacular idiocy.

    “For all Dr North’s brilliance as a researcher he is sadly lacking in the finer art of winning supporters in his campaign to destroy UKIP……”

    You clearly have no sense of irony. You acknowledge his brilliance, but the first problem is, he left UKIP because he got fed up of pouring a pissed Farage into taxis late at night in Brussels / Strasbourg. The second, that I’ve seen, is that no-one is doing any research in UKIP that’s worth a damn. Until recently, Christopher Monckton was UKIP head of policy. of all people.

    But this is worthy of a prize, more Darwin than Nobel:-

    “If Dr North has all the answers why does he not form a new party and lead the way out of the EU? If the list of UKIP defectors is as long as A.M. claims he would have a strong base on which to build.”

    Because as he’s pointed out several times in the past, causing dissatisfaction, disgruntlement and disarray in the anti-EU cause is (mainly) UKIP’s job. Conservative Central office set it up, got their man (Nigel) in, and Bob’s yer uncle. The only people that could ever make a difference in UKIP have been chased / blackmailed / manoeuvred out, and clueless fools in the party keep returning him as leader, because anyone capable has been forced out. In the land of the blind…..

    The anti-EU cause needs another micro-faction / pressure group / party like it needs another religious bigot who thinks that Devon is flooded because of gay marriage.

    The British people want an alternative political party to vote for, one that plays the same game as the “big 3”, but has credibility. It ain’t UKIP, not by a new Leader and some years.

  17. 17 Richard North 05/02/2014 at 9:09 pm

    Nailer and others … thank you for an interesting discussion. I take the likes of Wasp with a pinch of salt. They are two a penny, superficial, opinionated and unhelpful.

    What we do have to appreciate is that UKIP is not a zero-sum game. It is as much capable of doing damage to the anti-EU cause as it is furthering it. Anyone genuinely interested in pursuing our exit from the EU, therefore, must assess whether UKIP is, on balance, helpful or harmful, before committing to support it.

    On balance, I take the view that UKIP – as currently constituted – does more harm than good. But I do believe that it could be of marginal use, if it upped its game. However, I have little confidence that it can do so with the present cast of characters. More in desperation than hope, though, I keep pointing out the more egregious defects in the hope of seeing a positive response.

    That said, I believe that the main battlefield is not the electoral contest but, potentially, the referendum campaign. In that, UKIP will not be the only player. It may not even the main player. What counts is how we fight that referendum, and that is where I believe we should be focusing.

    To that extent, political parties may be irrelevant. What will matter is whether we can construct a series of winning arguments and put them in front of the public. If we don’t do that, we are all an irrelevance.


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