Labour cannot afford to be complacent about UKIP….

Much joy filled the Labour Twitterverse last night at the news of UKIP passing the Liberal Democrats into third place in the latest YouGov poll. Given the current position of the Liberal Democrats, propping up a hated Conservative administration, it’s not surprising that Labour activists should feel this way. Also, from this point of view, there is the added bonus that a heightened UKIP vote can and often does adversely affect the Conservative vote. So, UKIP are a giant and growing stone that kills both the opposition birds for Labour. Surely there is no bad here?

In the short-term, it maybe true that the rise of UKIP will only benefit Labour. However, that is only true in the short-term, a look into the longer-term reveals an awful lot of bad. Firstly, some Labour tweeters were correctly noting that the comparative program of the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, even by Coalition-standards, is not exactly heartening for progressive politics and while it maybe true that UKIP are merely taking the Liberal Democrats place as the main vehicle of voter protest, it can be scarcely a good thing if the form of that protest takes a rightward tilt. If it does, the pressure on the main Parties, yes the Conservatives, but Labour also, will be to move to the right. Labour members dreaming of a march to the left will thus find these dreams harder and harder to realise.

The rise of UKIP also shows that the prevalent ‘anti-politics’ mood has a very strong right-wing and potentially authoritarian twist; indeed, given the decline of the left, a lurch to the right looks the more likely outcome of the economic crisis right now than a glorious final push towards socialist nirvana. Indeed, the political space occupied by UKIP on issues like immigration and Europe is probably one that can, given some anti-corporate fine tuning, span the social divide between totally neglected and alienated core Labour areas and the increasingly embattled and impoverished leafy suburban areas that the Conservatives like to call their own. At the moment, UKIP lacks the organisational clout to build that bridge and therefore is naturally focusing most of its efforts on hiving-off Conservative votes, but with growth and momentum that is something that could easily change. This is especially true if Labour were to enter power. In that situation I think you would see UKIP expand and grow very quickly in core Labour areas.

This is the crux of the potentially fatal mistake made by the jubilant Labour Twitterati, to assume that something that is presently true will always be so and that UKIP will always be the protest Party that mainly cripples our political opponents. A strong possibility exists that once the UKIP-Genie is out of the bottle it won’t be put back in and, working in tandem with the Conservative right, it could form an alliance, feeding off ‘anti-politics’ negativity, that crushes the left for an awful long time. So, my advice to those that celebrated last night is not to underestimate UKIP and certainly lets not celebrate their successes as if they were our own, they most certainly are not.



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16 responses to “Labour cannot afford to be complacent about UKIP….”

  1. representingthemambo says :

    If there are Labour supporters rejoicing over this they are complete morons.

    It has worried me for a long time that there is ample space in British politics for a hard-right party with some serious financial and organisational clout. For a while it might have been the BNP. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

    A strong UKIP drives the Tories, Labour and the wider polity to the right. It would have a similar effect to the Front National in France, where they often set the terms of the debate and Sarkozy obediently follows.

    If Labour supporters think that a Tory party losing votes automatically benefits them then they are being totally brainless. Firstly, it doesn’t indicate anything positive about Labour, and if we did win an election by default what poliical/democratic legitimacy would we have?

    And lets imagine if UKIP were to return significant numbers of MP at an election. I would assume they would form a coalition with the Tories. If we think the ConDem coalition is bad…….


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :

    I agree representing. I think the problem with the BNP is that they were effectively branded as Nazi’s when anti-Nazism is part of British nationalism. Indeed they do and Hollande is often boxed into following too. That would be a seriously scary prospect…


  3. representingthemambo says :

    Reblogged this on Representing the Mambo and commented:
    Another good piece from Moments of Clarity.
    It touches on a theme I was starting to discuss in some of my previous articles about Luke Akehurst and the Labour Party, and that is turning Labour/left-wing political activism into something analogous to supporting a football team. Many Labourites have made the calculation that anything bad for the other ‘team’, the Conservatives, is by definition good for their ‘team’, Labour.
    Leaving aside the facile nature of their political analysis (any significant success for UKIP will drag political discourse in Britain to the right per se) it is difficult to see what electoral leitimacy would be conferred on a Labour government whose share of the vote didn’t change at all but that won any election by default (i.e a split in the right-wing vote).
    Surely serious Labour activists think politics is about more than the failings of the opposition? Or am I being hopelessly naive?


  4. Rhiannon Lockley (@illdoitanyway) says :

    Completely agree, this is what I was saying last night! Might be good for us as a party for fractioning of the right to happen, but not good for society for rise of “respectable” nationalism. Especially not ethnic minorities.


  5. Rhiannon Lockley (@illdoitanyway) says :

    Also, as an aside, going on what is happening locally I think UKIP are taking votes from tories on three main issues
    1) Decline of one nation toryism (mistrust of smarmy yuppyish neo-liberal tories who don’t speak to blue collar voters)
    2) Foreign aid (misperception is that if we cut this austerity programme will be toned down in some way)
    3) National sovereignty/border control complaints (I think these are fairly steady grumbles but in times of dissatisfaction with normal party due to sleaze etc can swing it)


  6. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Representing, thanks for the re-blog and some good points there….Rhiannon, thanks, totally agree with that…very worrying indeed…


  7. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Interesting, what that makes me wonder is if a David Davis lead Party would stop the UKIP bleed….I think it would to be honest…


  8. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Good stuff Rhiannon, thanks for the link 🙂


  9. Dances with Chickens says :

    Authoritarianism is left wing not right wing!


    • darrellgoodliffe says :

      Technically speaking it can be either…but democracy is the beating heart and soul of left wing politics so errr ye…


      • Dances with Chickens says :

        Large authoritarian governments are left wing as the state is all important.
        Right wing governments are small and have much more respect for the rights of the individual.


  10. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Dances….so that must be why this right-wing government wants to snoop on all our emails then?


  11. TangoKid says :

    The email snooping comes from the EU. The ever increasing, all powerfull state – Left Wing. Cameron is not Right wing in many ways. Labour wanted to bring in ID cards. Freedon loving hey?


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