Wednesday 19 November 2014

The voters aren't stupid, but Ukip is.

Never let it be said that I have lost my objectivity. If I am wrong I will say so. And sensible comments from Ukipists are welcome. It's just that all I tend to get from Ukipists is the usual litany of excuses their leaders make mixed in with some toxic personal abuse. I'm live in hope that perhaps one person from that party will demonstrate some self-awareness and actually engage in the issues I raise.

Each day a new Ukip story comes out that adds weight to the arguments I have made that Ukip is going to hit the wall without a solid policy base and it's amateurism will have a damaging effect on the case for leaving the EU.

The reason for this piece is to address a post on Conservative Home where political smart-arse, Peter Franklin, chastises other political smart-arses for scoffing at the notion that 33% of Ukipists are worried about leaving the EU.

Admittedly I was a bit hasty, but I have to take Franklin with a pinch of salt. He remarks that:
"Wanting to stay in the EU but voting for UKIP is perfectly consistent if other issues like immigration are your priority or you just want to register a protest vote. Indeed, some of this group of voters may have been expressing a general distrust of the Government instead of the specific concern mentioned in the question."
He's about right, but the point is that this could only have happened by positioning Ukip as a populist dustbin for protest votes which is was a serious political blunder.

What we saw from the Euro polls was not so much a bite out of the traditional party share but a galvanisation of the minnow parties, and the actual growth of the protest vote was minuscule. We measure the success of Ukip by what remains afterward. We can see from polling demographics that Ukip basically represents Mr Working-class Angry Man. I don't deny that's a big constituency, but it is also one with a glass ceiling of appeal. However popular it might be, it is not popular enough and there's not much you can do to expand that base.

Essentially, moving away from objective based politics to become a generic protest puts a choke on growth which is why we'll soon see a stagnation in Ukip growth. We can't say exactly when but peak-Ukip isn't far away. That's just how surge politics works.

The mistake was to assume that you can take shortcuts without winning the arguments. What now remains is a party without a solid base, and one which deliberately has to keep policy quite vague to avoid a fracture, but then is left in the weak position of having to navigate it's own wake of flim-flam, as we see from Mark Reckless this morning.

And here's the problem: As Peter Franklin affirms, voters are not stupid. They may cast a protest vote when a protest vote is safe but without loyalty to an idea, Ukip does has nothing to hold onto when things get serious. The Lib Dems should be a clear warning. It only takes one policy u-turn to send a long standing third party into electoral oblivion. A house built on sand cannot stand.

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