End of the world averted and Farage likes to drink pints of beer: 6 observations

Peter Elms

News that global thermo nuclear war has been averted has done next to nothing to prevent Nigel Farage dominating the news. You are probably more likely to know that Nigel Farage likes a pint, than the fact that North Korea has taken two Musudan missiles off launch-ready status and moved them from their position on the country's east coast.

It is now not disputed that had UKIP been in business in 1962, you would probably think the Cuban Missile Crisis are that hip band that your friend liked at University.

So with all that has been written about UKIP in the last week, what have we learned?

Possibly the following:

  • It’s difficult to say what a protest vote is: When is a decision to vote for a party based on the fact that you prefer it to the other parties a protest vote, and not just a normal vote? Probably when it is a vote for a party that you don’t like much, made by someone that you think should be voting for you (if you’re a politician). Clear? Perhaps it is a little bit like the jilted disco dancer telling his friends that “she is only dancing with him because he looks like me, and I don’t fancy her anyway etc” – it is a little unconvincing. Nobody should be fooled. Politicians want your votes – all of them. Be they protest, ironic, casual, mistaken or wasted – they want them. A protest vote is most likely to be one they didn’t get, hence the attempt to devalue it.
  • No one is really sure what it all means: Should the Tories hang to the Right? Should Labour adopt a tougher stance on immigration? Should smoking be brought back in pubs?  Is Boris right – is this not a problem for the Conservatives at all? What can be said with near certainty all parties have lost votes to UKIP, 23% of the vote in fact, in areas where a UKIP candidate existed. It’s also pretty fair to say that policies aside (lack thereof not being a problem for UKIP alone), what UKIP is saying is resonating with some voters. UKIP take a no nonsense approach to communicating with the electorate, we know what Farage means when he says it, this is a good thing. Can you imagine Farage extrapolating on the virtues of one nationism, or inviting you to join the Big Society and do you think he would be more or less successful if he did?
  • It might not have much to do with class: A fight back against the out of touch Etonians at Number 10? The natural result of the Labour Party no longer representing the working man? But didn’t Farage go to private school and didn’t his Dad earn lots of money? Does he choose to pronounce his surname like that, á la Hyacinth Bucket? What does that mean? Statistical analysis would help here: YouGov has in the past said that “UKIP voters are older and poorer than Tories but less right-wing”, trying to deconstruct that statement along class lines is difficult, at best. Essentially as YouGov concede, the current pool of intelligence on UKIP voters is slim “the number of UKIP supporters in any single poll is too small to provide reliable data”. We just don’t know – and does it really matter?
  • You can get into trouble when you reach for a friend’s phone whilst imitating a pot plant: Take this chap for example.
  • Hardly anyone can name two members of UKIP: UKIP need to have someone else other than Nigel doing the media rounds. Nigel is a huge asset, but to gain further credibility other voices need to be heard. Alexandra Swann is media friendly and she seems nice and normal, which is a good thing. Of course there is a risk in putting someone ‘new’ out there, especially someone who is at the very start of their political career, the scrutiny will be intense – but that’s politics. Weaning the media off Nigel in the medium term will help UKIP appear that little less eccentric – and more vote worthy.
  • If you feel that the media has been Farage centric in the last week, just you wait until next year’s European elections.

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