23 May 2014

Seven reasons why success breeds success for Ukip

There’s much chat today about how important these results are for Ukip. Is it the earthquake Nigel Farage promised? Well, how does one define an earthquake. Some are pointing out that Ukip’s likely share of the vote – 22 per cent – is actually slightly down on 2013.

Maybe, but the local results and the European results on Sunday will provide Nigel Farage and his party with a real bridgehead for 2015, in all sorts of ways.

First, the European polls on Sunday will give Nigel Farage a much larger team of full-time paid MEPs from whom he can pick a front-bench team to relieve him of some of the burden of being a “one-man band” – perhaps 24 or so.  True, he had around a dozen MEPs before (the figure kept fluctuating), but this time the Ukip high command has put a lot more effort into quality-control and tried to exclude oddballs and eccentrics. We will see how successful that has been.


Second, the likely result on Sunday will provide Ukip with lots more money from the European parliament, up to 100 paid staff in one form or another and a network of regional offices. In short, a much stronger campaign infrastrucure.  Under the rules, these resources are meant to be devoted solely to the parliamentary activities of MEPs. Again we’ll see about that.

Third, more and more people are getting into the habit of voting Ukip. It’s become a regular, respectable thing to do. So Ukip’s European election vote this weekend may not crumble so readily as it did after the Euro elections of 2004 and 2009.

Fourth, Ukip have rapidly been building up detailed canvass records of who their supporters are. These, in turn, can be used not just to garner votes, but to raise funds and recruit new members.  The party has declared that this summer it expects to overtake the Liberal Democrats in membership numbers. It would not surprise me.

Fifth, Ukip’s successes will put a lot more pressure on us broadcasters to include the party even more in our political coverage, up to and beyond the election. And it makes it all the harder to exclude Nigel Farage entirely from leaders’ TV debates.

Sixth, each election gives Ukip more campaign experience. For example, several of the newly elected Ukip councillors in Rotherham today told me it was only after experience of the 2012 by-election there that they understood the importance of organising postal votes. This time they were a lot more organised to getting supporters to apply for postal votes and use them. And I think it unlikely that Ukip will ever again organise a carnival quite as chaotic as that in Croydon this week.

Finally, today’s local election results, added to the results from 2013, give Ukip a detailed ward-by-ward guide map as to where their support and strength lies, and therefore the  parliamentary seats they should “throw the kitchen sink at” over the coming year. Great Yarmouth, for example, and Rotherham.

It’s simple really. Success breeds success.

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