It must be a strange feeling in the UKIP camp, having quadrupled their vote but actually ended up with less MPs after losing one of the two by-election gains they had made. Then, Nigel Farage’s failure to win in South Thanet prompted him to make good his promise to resign, even if that resignation has since been rejected by the party.
However, their parliamentary voice is scarcely diminished (Reckless being a bit of a nonentity anyway) and with a genuine axe to grind against the electoral system as well as Europe, UKIP are ideally positioned to continue with what has been a winning strategy – playing the plucky underdogs, fighting for change against the system.
It is deeply counter-intuitive to folks who spend a lot of time analyzing politics and what politicians actually stand for but UKIP seem to have pulled off the trick of concealing their true neoliberal colours (they are the UK’s Tea Party to the Conservative’s Republicans) by handing normal people an external foe to blame their woes on and never deviating from that message, aside from making popular (and hollow) promises re: the NHS & treatment of veterans.
This is shown by their success in traditional Labour areas, possibly taking a great many votes from Labour there and sucking up the floating voters that Labour needed to win the election. Basically, Labour failed to offer an alternative to the Conservatives austerity policies while UKIP did offer a ready scapegoat…
Of course, UKIP’s figures are dodgy, their manifesto an incomplete, uncosted mess and all truly credible economic and social analysis shows that an exit from the EU and isolationist policies re: immigration and foreign policy would result in the speedy collapse of the British economy.
However, to appreciate this requires quite a lot of dull reading and if folks are presented with an easy narrative that fits their established prejudice, then it’s understandable that this will be a successful tactic.
Terrifying, isn’t it?
With a significant mandate from the electorate and gains made in the local authority elections, UKIP will continue to be a big part of the UK political landscape, especially with the prospect of an In-Out referendum on Europe within this parliament. The way that campaign and vote goes, could well determine the future of the party.