I had been seeing UKIP’s support slowly climb up the polls but it doesn’t seem to have happened in the recent Feltham by election. So what’s wrong?
I have no connection with UKIP beyond occasionally voting for them, neither do I have any other political affiliations, so I have no horse in the race and no great political experience. Yet sometimes it’s easier to see things from outside, so here are some random observations about UKIP from what I think is an external perspective.
The MSM don’t take UKIP seriously. It’s not just their being starved of publicity, although they are, but more importantly they are almost invariably condescendingly treated as the lightweight humorous entry to round up the EU news. Rather like Melvin Bragg might interview a Morris side doing the stick dance on the South Bank Show to lighten the end of the programme. UKIP are rarely allowed to make a serious statement, just brought in for the EU elite bashing act. (Actually that’s unfair, Melvyn Bragg would probably be genuinely interested and polite to a Morris side).
Bashing the EU elite is vital but, maybe partly because they have allowed themselves to fall into the above role, UKIP comes across as a one trick pony. Important as the EU has become not everyone realises its reach or its malign influence on all aspects of our lives, many voters don’t care. Even if they know who Von Rompuy is they probably don’t understand his influence. Yet every time I hear UKIP or Nigel Farage it’s about the subject of the EU, and worse than that, usually the internal workings taking place in a foreign land. In Nigel Farage UKIP have a superb orator who can speak plainly and forcibly, and he can easily connect with the electorate. Yet he is virtually never heard on the subjects that occupy other UK parties or affect people’s day to day lives. UKIP may realise that it all comes back to the EU and are attacking the root of the problem, I realize that too, but I wonder how many voters do? Or that UKIP actually have a set of domestic policies?
UKIP’s message has become intrinsically a negative one, always about the things we don’t want. Popularity isn’t easily gained by harping on negatives, there is no feelgood factor dealing in negatives. The positives on offer tend to be semi-abstract concepts like Sovereignty or ‘self-determination’. These are not things that people can easily extrapolate into how it makes their lives better or worse. (In any case if most politicians are self-serving crooks - the general assessment I think - who cares whether an EU bureaucrat is elected or nominated?) What matters is now much tax we pay, whether there is job security, where the next mortgage payment will come from, the cost of transport and keeping warm? These all have an EU aspect yet UKIP never make the connection between these real daily issues affecting everyone’s life and the EU’s dread hand on the tiller.
I have no answers or advice for UKIP, they must do what they must do, I'm just a bloke with a computer in a room. But I do wish they would sometimes start from the other end of the argument, for example taking a topic that really annoys people, like energy price, then working it back to show how the EU has caused it.