UKIP leads race to the gutter

The best place for it
The best place for it

From the coverage of the English local election results and the relentless Farage mania you would think that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) had romped to first place with the Tories a close second writes Liam Mac Uaid. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that Labour had received a hammering and the Liberal Democrats don’t exist. The main story in most of the press, from the BBC to The Daily Telegraph, is that Labour is in crisis as a result of the election.

Yet what actually happened was that it was the two parties of the coalition that have been hammered. Labour’s result reflects the party’s polling figures over the last few months. It would have made them the largest party in Parliament if repeated in a general election, though just short on an overall majority. A big swathe of the press has been standing the results on their heads solely to pretend that the Tory position is much stronger than the numbers show. Some Lib Dems have begun an online petition to ditch party leader Nick Clegg, yet while Miliband is the target of an unrelenting hostile barrage of personal abuse, there is no press comment on how Cameron has presided over significant Tory losses and Labour is ahead of them.

Overall Labour made some modest gains, increasing its number of councillors by 338 and the number of councils under its control by six. The Tories lost 231councillors and control of 11 councils. The Lib Dems lost a staggering 307 of their 427 councillors. UKIP now have 163 councillors, though they won none in London.

The number of votes won was not the new factor in UKIP’s performance. They did well last year too. Their achievement is to have repeated it a year later and they are showing all the signs of continuing their surge until the general election next year. This means the election will be a four cornered fight.

This is potentially bad news for the Tories. While it is true that UKIP is having as impact in the Labour heartlands as well, it is on a different scale to the potential effects in the Tory areas. According to the Daily Telegraph, some Tories are saying that even if UKIP’s vote in the general election dips to 6 or 7% it would scupper their chances of winning a majority. The paper also comments that UKIP smashed the Tories in their Essex strongholds.

UKIP has established itself as a new party of the hard right with a significant electoral base. Its largely improvised  programme has much in common with the main demands that neo-fascist groups like the British National Party (BNP) advanced when they were trying to develop an electoral strategy. Farage, the UKIP leader, has achieved something akin to Marine Le Pen’s marginal detoxification of the Front National. However it was hardly necessary. The people who voted for him knew that they were voting for an anti-immigration package and every outrageous homophobic, misogynistic, racist remark from Farage or his newly assembled ragbag of candidates didn’t really matter.

The exception to this was London where it made much more limited inroads. London is the most multicultural part of the country; Farage said that it is because it has a younger voter base. It is not only a youth problem for UKIP; it is essentially a white party seeping votes from BNP supporters and Labour supporters who see no future in this country for working people.

So much for conventional wisdom

The conventional wisdom has been that Tory governments are bad news for the far right since they borrow a modified form of the BNP or National Front’s (NF) rhetoric. UKIP has succeeded in forcing the Tories and Labour to steal its language. While the votes were still being counted Ed Balls was on the BBC driving home just how much like UKIP Labour was willing to be:

“people want tougher controls on immigration… we have been making those arguments … people feel we don’t have the right kind of immigration controls and border controls.”

It is hard to imagine a more utter capitulation to UKIP’s racism. Labour has lost some votes to UKIP. Rotherham, where Farage’s outfit won ten seats and is now the official opposition, was a traditional Labour stronghold. Basildon, a Labour target area returned eleven UKIP councillors.

Labour should have done better in the circumstances, but they are hampered not just by lacklustre presentation, they are compromised on the key policy issues, from the cuts to racism

The Tory attitude to UKIP is changing with an embarrassing rapidity. They are no longer describing UKIP as “clowns and fruitcakes”. George Osborne, the person most likely to replace Cameron, has spoken of his “respect” for Farage and some MPs are floating the idea of an electoral pact. Partly this is because they don’t disagree with a lot of what UKIP says, and partly it’s because they want to hold onto their seats next year.

The left is not doing well. Left Unity stood a dozen candidates as a first election outing scored its best result in Wigan with 8.8%.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) fielded several hundred candidates in areas where they had no base and no political profile. This was rewarded by votes typically in the region of 1% and the re-election of a former Labour councillor under the TUSC banner. The Greens had another 17 councillors elected and are now the official opposition in Liverpool and Solihull, Islington and Lewisham in London, and they remain the official opposition in Norwich. The Green Party now have 162 councillors on 56 councils.

Four years of aggressive class warfare by the Con Dem government has left tens of millions of people in England poorer and feeling more financially insecure than ever before. The poor and the unemployed are held up as objects of scorn and abuse by the entire political class.  And who is the principal beneficiary of this situation? The first really successful far right party the country has produced. If Labour continue to use the same language as UKIP on immigration and benefits there will only be one winner in that race to the gutter.



  1. What the rise of UKIP shows is that a right wing populist party could seriously challenge Labour. It is (though true) facile to simply label UKIP as racist. The fact is the majority of the white working class are disillusioned and looking for solutions and the answer they look for is to blame the immigrants.
    Labour pander to this agenda and this just increased s the appeal of these politics.

    • In the areas of the Labour heartlands where UKIP did well the issue of the failure of the Labour party to provide coherent non-neoliberal economic policies (their insistence that they will not reverse the cuts, the lack of even something as basic as direct government jobs creation has never been whispered) is the root of the problem; the additional issue, of course, is the lack of a strong left to offer alternative answers to the easy xenophobia that is offered by UKIP.

      Barring a coherent left, the party providing quasi-opposition to the unity of neoliberalism is a protest vote. We have a lot of work to do to develop a grass-roots based left that can actually provide a coherent opposition to neoliberalism, casual xenophobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia. UKIP also benefited from a massive amount of free coverage in the mainstream media which portrayed them as a protest group.

      One important issue is whether people will vote this way on a national election rather than as a local (UKIP has nothing to say on local level) protest vote against the mainstream parties. That is obviously not clear; so drawing too many conclusions would be an error. One thing was clear and this has been demonstrated both in by-elections and now hear, the LibDems are in serious trouble; why do we need a 3rd neoliberal party? They are essentially redundant except in areas where they have a strong historical base. They have disappeared from local councils in Liverpool and in London (e.g., Waltham Forest).

      The fact that UKIP holds openly racist, misogynist and homophobic positions combined with reactionary economic policies (if they are still babbling about a flat tax rate which will undermine already low incomes for the working class) and a pretense towards being an opposition has clearly served them in the past two elections as there has been no true left opposition in this country to actually offer more to a disillusioned and essentially disenfranchised white working class . Left Unity has a hard job ahead of it.

  2. Winner goes to this election No2 Euro anti immigrent campaign. ED Milliband also accpeted it. Whom they countered it politicaly ? I dont think anybody attended. Majority of cities including London mulit cultureal thats why UKPI not won single seat. Economic meltdown other cities they are voice dominating in no dought abot it. Problem is today did neo libarlism could counter it ? I wish we should have to answer with how Euro free momvement facing it.

  3. Something that hasn’t been mentioned anywhere else is the sudden emergence of Tower Hamlets First, a “party” which supports the re-elected mayor Luftur Rahman. At the time of writing they are fractionally ahead of Labour as regards share of the vote but have won 15 councillors to Labour’s 9.

    It contains some people who were involved in Respect and some defectors from Labour. It’s not at all clear how it’ll shape up ideologically but most people see Rahman as slightly more left than his Labour opponent John Biggs.

  4. Typical of socialist ‘book burners’ to deface UKIP literature. I saw defaced UKIP election posters in Swansea. Fortunately, it didn’t stop UKIP coming within 1% of beating Labour in Wales. Truth is that every corner of mainland Britain has embraced UKIP’s policies.

  5. Will, I think it’s a very labourious task to work out TUSC’s vote, unless Tusc publishes an Excel sheet, and Liam is obviously not going to do that. For example look at the Eastern Region results and it seem the median mark there was 2%.

    The big error, of course, is Liam’s claim that a former Labour councillor was elected under the TUSC banner. He must be thinking of the independent councillor elected in Southampton, who certainly did not run as TUSC.

    • Well Duncan if a writer doesnt know the figure then they should not quote one. What is required at this point is a proper discussion based on facts rather than guess work. At last nights TUSC Steering Committee this was raised with Alan Thornett who said that he thought Liam had changed the one per cent figure. I read the article and saw that he had not. It is good practice to note you have made a mistake so that debates can proceed on a clear basis rather than made up figures. I have no issue with people being clear that Keith did not stand as a TUSC candidate but he did stand under the TUSC umbrella and has chosen to engage with TUSC as a national formation rather than any other body. Food for thought I think.

  6. Will, as far as I’ve been able to establish 560 TUSC candidates got 68,031 votes. That gives an average of 121 per candidate. When I was writing the piece the numbers weren’t all available and I looked at a number of council sites to make an estimate.

    Now, we can quibble over what that represents as a percentage but that’s not a good number. I think if Left Unity had undertaken a similar operation its results would have been in the same ballpark. It’s true that Keith Morrell did very well but any reasonable person would attribute that to years of solid spadework in his ward, rather than a vote for TUSC. However I think the general thrust of the piece as regards UKIP, Labour and the far left stands up.

    These were dire results for our side and a huge victory for the hard right. That’s really the starting point of the discussion.

  7. If people want to see what 4 years of political campaigning can achieve take a look at our results in Lewisham for People Before Profit! 15 candidates getting 500+ votes, 6 wards where we are now second to Labour. 6000 votes gained 8% for Mayor. Almost 20,000 votes!

    Nick Long Election Agent LPBP

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