Friday

23rd Jun 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Are MEPs too 'free' to be accountable?

The European Parliament is currently fine-tuning its negotiating position on the Commission's proposal from September 2016 for a mandatory transparency register. Sadly, so far it seems to prefer empty statements to bold action.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  2. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  3. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  4. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  5. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  6. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  7. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal
  8. US issues warrant for VW managers, German media say

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  2. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  3. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  4. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  5. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  6. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  7. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  8. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  11. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  12. European Social Services ConferenceDriving innovation in the social sector – 26-28 June

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  2. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  3. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  4. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  5. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  6. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  7. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  8. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  9. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  10. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceNutrition and Heart Disease: Time to Raise Our Standards