Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

  • Nigel Farage, the former charasmatic leader of Ukip. (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

There was finally something to play for when formal campaigning resumed on Friday (26 May) after three days of mourning for the victims of Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester.

Opinion polls have suddenly narrowed. The Conservatives’ 20-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has more than halved.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Corbyn’s tactic of proposing tax hikes for the rich to fund extra spending on public services, while talking about Brexit as little as possible, has boosted Labour’s core vote.

Meanwhile, a clumsy U-turn by Theresa May over an unpopular manifesto pledge to take the payment for social care from the estates of the people who are affected, has hurt the Tories. Despite a wobbly couple of weeks, nobody should get over-excited. The Conservatives are still between 5 and 10 percent ahead.

Yet if long-suffering Labour supporters finally have something to cheer, minor parties have nothing to shout about in what is a two-horse race, particularly in England. Between the two, the Conservatives and Labour are set to take more than 80 percent of the votes, something which hasn’t happened since 1979.

If the Liberal Democrats have failed to make the breakthrough that they hoped would be delivered by marketing themselves as the voice of the "48 percent" of Remain supporters, The UK independence Party (Ukip) are on the political life-support machine. Having won 13 percent of the vote in 2015, the anti-EU party is now polling lower than 5 percent.

They won’t win, or come close to winning, any seats on 8 June.

Dying party

The first major warning that the party was over came at local council elections in early May: Ukip went from 146 seats to one. Its vote share slumped from 22 percent to 5 percent. Most of their vote appears to have gone to the Conservatives following Theresa May’s shift towards caps on immigration and leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.

In a sense, Ukip's demise shouldn’t be a surprise. Unlike Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France or Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, they are essentially a single issue party that, at the end of EU talks in 2019, will probably obtain its goal of Britain leaving the EU.

The speed of its collapse is the result of having little to say and nobody credible to say it – not to mention a series of petty personal feuds.

Aside from euroscepticism, UKIP's other calling cards have always been anti-immigration, climate change denial and islamophobia. Its manifesto launch on Thursday was a naked appeal to the latter, with a touch of farce thrown in.

Banning the burqa, on the grounds that the “women wearing them are deprived of vitamin D”, is one of Ukip's pledges.

No charismatic leader

The main reason for Ukip's collapse is that, after the loss of Nigel Farage’s charismatic leadership, they are just a rag-tag of third raters. Only a handful of journalists attended the launch of the party’s manifesto with Paul Nuttall – Ukip's latest leader – testament to its irrelevance.

So, too, was its cack-handed timing – the launch began 45 minutes before the minute of silence at 11am for the Manchester victims – hardly perfect timing for Ukip's deputy leader, Suzanne Evans, to suggest that Theresa May was at least partly responsible for Monday’s bombing.

“I think she must bear some responsibility. All politicians who voted for measures to make cuts (to police numbers) must bear some responsibility,” she said.

Desperate stuff from a desperate party.

“Ukip is dead,” pronounced Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP for the past two years, but who quit Ukip in March after a long running power struggle with its national executive. “It is over for the party as a political force.”

Carswell pins the blame for Ukip's sudden death on the party’s long-time front-man, Farage.

“Far from having a strategy, we seemed to be driven by whatever came out of Nigel’s mouth,” he says.

Farage is still an MEP, of course. Nobody could deprive him of a two-year swansong in Brussels and Strasbourg picking verbal fights with liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt before collecting a €200,000 severance pay-off and a €70,000 a year pension.

If Ukip have ever been good at anything, it is milking the European Parliament’s allowances and expenses.

Ukip's 20 MEPs are likely to be the last party representatives left standing when the Brexit process ends in spring 2019. There is an apt symbolism that, having failed to break into domestic politics, the party of euroscepticism will finally die in Brussels.

Benjamin Fox, a former reporter for EUobserver, is a consultant with Sovereign Strategy, a London-based PR firm, and a freelance writer.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Tories on manoeuvres, as Labour wakes from Brexit slumber

In Labour's programme for the June election, Jeremy Corbyn claims there will be no second EU referendum and promises a form of associate membership with the EU. For the moment, it’s as far as his party can go.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May’s election juggernaut

The prime minister's Tories almost need not bother campaigning for the June election. There is no opposition worthy of the name.

EU gives mandate for Barnier to take on Brexit

In its final preparatory act before Brexit talks begin, the EU has officially given the negotiating mandate to Michel Barnier. The French politician said he would like to start negotiations on the week of 19 June.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The coronation that nearly lost the crown

It is highly unlikely, but far from impossible, that prime minister Theresa May will lose Thursday's election. But the way her campaign is staggering to the finish line suggests that her honeymoon phase is over.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight