Sunday 5 April 2015

What are you smoking Mr Goodwin?

You're only allowed twenty free article views on the Telegraph each month. I've used up my entire monthly allowance laughing at this by Matthew Goodwin from last November. "Ukip’s days of amateur campaigning are over" apparently. "The Rochester by-election shows how formidable Nigel Farage's party machine has become" says Matthew.

I suppose this really depends on how you define amateurish and it depends on what you're trying to achieve. I remember well the BNP once had a very slick operation having the top scoring website of all political parties for a time. The message was very much in synch with the rhetoric and updated daily by a team very much in touch with the party leadership. Not so Ukip, where the any coordination between the website and the message of the day is wholly coincidental.

If the strategy is to broaden appeal we have seen no evidence of this. If the strategy is to hold the line it isn't working - and Farage has yet to put a lid on the daily drip of idiocy from Kippers. If Matthew is seeing professionalism, he is seeing effective managed retreat and semi-effective damage control, but his central thesis that Ukip will go on to bigger and better things is now looking threadbare. His whole credibility depends on Farage winning in Thanet, which doesn't seem plausible, and even then his salvation will be short lived.

Ukip can't grow with Farage and it can't survive without him. Farage is a spent force. Meanwhile, Ukip is consolidating on BNP turf which is a fickle and diminishing constituency. It collapses as soon as it looks like a loser. All it can do for Ukip is keep them from folding before the election.

Meanwhile, Farage is blowing the cash on his campaign at the expense of others, and Reckless doesn't look safe at all. Carswell will come out of this looking very bruised and alienated from the party having got caught up in the moment, mistaking Ukip for a political party with momentum as Goodwin has.

Ukip needed to keep up the threat level from last November to win the four or five seats it needed to get its foot permanently in the door. This won't happen. A series of amateurish miscalculations compounded by Janice Atkinson has shattered the illusion that Ukip is different or somehow less sleazy, and the Rotherham scandal showed the true colours of many a Kipper, cementing the suspicion that Ukip is more than just incidentally racist.

Certainly the Meet the Kippers programme has not helped Ukip, but rather than being media bias, it merely shows Ukip in the full light of day. Ukip dragging the press all the way out to a seaside town to not produce a manifesto in some hole where there is no mobile reception didn't do them any favours either. This is the professionalism we are told exists at the top of the party. As to actual policy, there have been eight iterations of Ukip policy on immigration and Carswell having to disown Farage's position on HIV infected immigrants shows the cracks.

The truth is that without setting out their intellectual framework before heading into a campaign, it was only ever going to be failure after failure in the communications department, and the communications team (if such a thing exists) is committed not to a structured campaign but is instead putting out the many brush fires started by Farage. A credible set of policies might just have been the insurance policy that could have converted controversy into a serious debate, allowing Ukip to establish its intellectual credibility and capitalise on publicity but instead it has descended into farce. This is not how a non-amateur outfit operates.

In reality, Ukip entered the campaign with no real preparation, no strategy and no intelligent allocation of resources. Fighting campaigns in totally unwinnable seats is wasteful and pointless and making immigration was a poor choice of platform. The assumption that the whole "left behind" constituency would fall in behind Ukip assumes they're all too thick to spot a charlatan blowing dog whistles. Us Northerners are a bit thick but we know a shitehawk when we see one.

Moreover, the more Farage blows those dog whistles, the more moderate conservatives will drift back to the Tories. There is a sympathy for the politics of the "left behind" but no shared identity. Laying on the rhetoric too thickly is to insult our intelligence. Farage is surrounded by the very thickest and assumes the rest of us are equally dumb. We're not. Consequently, it's no longer just the "liberal media" sticking the boot in on Ukip. It's everyone. The purple revolution is now a busted flush, those significant wins aren't coming, and there's no obvious way it can survive Farage. Only a miracle can save Ukip.

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