Ask voters which party they most associate with wanting the UK to leave the EU and they will reply UKIP. This is despite the declining importance of the EU question that has become evident among UKIP supporters.
So You Gov’s poll findings that voters feel a lot more negative and less positive about UKIP than they did five years ago, as covered on Political Betting, should be a concern to all people on the anti-EU side.
To howls of derision, copious amounts of abuse, occasional smears and some more measured and polite dismissals by UKIP supporters, this blog has tried over many months to explain that the approach of UKIP’s leadership (in particular Nigel Farage, as he sets the direction in autocratic fashion) was actually setting the party up to fail at a time when everyone has been pointing at higher polling, membership and votes in elections.
This You Gov poll puts meat on the bones of my many blog posts on the subject. UKIP is hitting a glass ceiling where its support is at its maximum.
While it might have formed a hard core of committed, fervent, extremely vocal, almost evangelical supporters – many of whom use social media and newspaper comment threads as echo chambers to increase mention of the party, encourage each other, and aggressively gang up on anyone with a criticism – they are gradually alienating an increasing number of middle of the road voters they need to attract if they are to make a political breakthrough of any substance.
Ordinary voters who share many of UKIP’s concerns, particularly rejection of the UK remaining in the EU, are increasingly choosing not to support the party because of the unrefined and hollow rhetoric on immigration, the behaviour of supporters on the internet, and the vacuous, policy-lite hotch potch of ‘aspirations’. But as they turn away from UKIP, many will also turn away from the anti-EU side of the EU membership argument just as it looks possible a referendum could finally be held.
This blog has long considered itself a critical friend to UKIP, despite the attacks by those who consider themselves virtuous defenders of the cause. But if UKIP looks set to hamstring the prospects of the anti-EU side by acting as a repellant rather than a recruiter, then the friendship has to end and UKIP has to be taken on and defeated.
I wish there was an alternative to this. But there’s far more at stake in a referendum than there is in preserving the ambitions of Nigel Farage. UKIP’s failings must not be allowed to drag down the chances of the anti-EU side of winning a referendum.
I am often asked just what my agenda is as people cannot believe I want to leave the EU, but remain critical of UKIP. It is very simple. We need UKIP to sort itself out and shape up, or we need to get it out of the way so we can take on and defeat the Europhiles.