Labour fanatic Dan Hodges has taken to his Telegraph blog in light of the Wythenshawe election result to dismiss the notion that UKIP is any kind of electoral threat to Labour:
So now we know. The narrative that Ukip is as much of a threat to Labour as it is to the Conservative Party is rubbish. Though to be fair, some of us always suspected as much.
Lest we forget, last night’s Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election was supposed to be the moment that Ukip made the big breakthrough into Labour’s heartland. As my colleague Toby Young wrote recently, many commentators were claiming that an outright Ukip win “is not as far-fetched as you might think, as Mike Smithson points out in this post for PoliticalBetting.com.
Hodges is clearly a man who likes to stir a reaction. And as expected, this has turned out to be the literary equivalent of taking a stick and poking a nest of angry purple and yellow wasps, with the resident UKIP commenters swarming out to attack, ridicule, criticise, berate and insult Hodges as much as their keyboards will allow. I think he’s actually quite enjoying it.
But one of the comments left in response to Hodges rightly observing the party has no national message, typifies the lack of awareness or political nous that characterises so many UKIP fanatics who have convinced themselves the party will deliver an electoral earthquake in the near future. I left a reply to the comment making the point that so many UKIP followers do not seem able to grasp.
What this highlights is the absence of a political strategy at UKIP. Some people have an idea of some of what UKIP is against, but ask people what UKIP is for and blank stares will form on their faces. It’s not good enough for ‘kippers to say ‘you can’t criticise our lack of message because the others haven’t got a message either’.
Rightly or wrongly the other parties are established and people have a perception, accurate or otherwise, of what they stand for. This just isn’t the case when it comes to UKIP. I stand to be accused once again of waging a campaign against Nigel Farage, or bearing some yet to be defined grudge against him, but the fact is Farage is UKIP and UKIP is Farage. It isn’t possible to separate the two, such is the control he wields over the party.
Holding Farage responsible for these basic political failings and strategic errors will upset some ‘kippers and the angry comments and emails will arrive again, but it is the reality. If not him, then who is responsible for it? UKIP has underperformed for 20 years. Against a backdrop of anger against the political class it has made a little bit of headway to rise to around 13% nationally, higher in some individual constituencies, much lower in others. But that is all. It is not setting the political weather to the extent its supporters imagine because it has sent to the back burner the one cogent message people did understand, that of wanting to leave the EU.
Unless UKIP defines itself and outlines a positive vision that people can aspire to and want to vote for, the party will remain trapped below the glass ceiling it has created for itself. It doesn’t require the spelling out of huge amounts of detail, but it needs more of a vision that ‘we aren’t the other lot’. Under Farage with his random approach and lack of depth it just ain’t gonna happen.
Unless this nettle is grasped UKIP will be a perennial protest repository that sometimes makes a nuisance of itself but can otherwise be discounted as a genuine threat by Labour or the Conservatives. Worst of all, it will undermine the wider EUsceptic movement that the media lazily associates with the party.