Sunday, June 06, 2004

You Cannot Be Serious

Nick Cohen is worried. While we've been looking at the BNP, we've missed the rise of UKIP.

"All that can be said with certainty this weekend, is that the BNP has failed to appear in the polls and any victories it scrapes will rely on a miserable turnout rather than a wave of enthusiastic support.

Its real success has been to distort the political vision. Until a few weeks ago few in the Westminster village noticed the far more significant right-wing phenomenon of the United Kingdom Independence Party."

Two things. One is that the BNP is still not a repectable party. If people are reluctant to admit in polls to voting Conservative, how much more must this apply to a potential BNP voter. It'll be interesting to see how the vote compares with the polls (my money is still on one or more seats).

The other is that until a few weeks ago, UKIP didn't exist on anyone's political radar. Its 3 Euro-MPs have made not a ripple on politics over the last 5 years. Only the massive 'NO' poster campaign, bigger then either of the main parties, has put it in the consciousness of voters.

Matthew D'Ancona in the Telegraph has it about right.

"They will doubtless have their day on Thursday, may well make electoral gains, and will certainly claim that the UKIP is now a serious political force. That claim will be utter, unmitigated, fully-fledged nonsense. Who now takes seriously the Green Party, which gained 14.9 per cent of the vote in the 1989 European elections?

The truth is that the electorate is sophisticated, and sees Thursday's polls as an opportunity to give Mr Blair and - in some areas - Mr Howard a kicking. The voters regard local government as more or less powerless, and the European Parliament as irrelevant: if these elections have any meaning, therefore, it will be as a protest vote, a collective act in mischief-making and a means of sticking two fingers up at the political establishment."

Though UKIP are not a serious organisation, and their vote is indeed a 'Not In My Name' vote, we're moving into the era where a pile of money and some celebrity endorsements make you a more serious political player than a national network of members, branches, meetings, leafletters - all the old stuff of politics. Today on the right with UKIP, tomorrow it could be on the left, if the rock and film aristocracy could put its money where its mouth is.

What IS scary is the political volatility and lack of attachment which the UKIP rise demonstrates. Interesting times.

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