If you’re not aware of the two words ‘Peak UKIP’ then you clearly have not been keeping up to date with your current affairs. ‘Peak UKIP’ is a phrase being used by those who believe that now, as the dust has settled after the European and local elections – as well as the Newark by-election, we shall see the support for UKIP slowly diminish as we move towards the 2015 general election. This view, although seemingly widespread, also appears to be championed without much evidence. The exponents of it will cite that support for UKIP always surges before a European election and then falls off as we approach a general election but unfortunately the circumstances are very different now to what they have been in recent years.
This view is optimistic at its best and downright arrogant at its worst. Those who think UKIP will not present a threat at next year’s general election seem to have shrugged off a large amount of their voter share as just ‘protest votes’ and believe that most of their supporters will return to the three main parties come the election. I do not agree with this view in the slightest. I do not doubt that Conservatives and Labour politicians alike would love this to be the case but it seems to be a view that is very out of touch with the current political climate. People are angry, not just at the coalition and the EU, but at politicians in general. UKIP have become an outlet for this anger and it is for this reason that they are here to stay.
Nigel Farage is possibly the cleverest politician in Britain, by positioning himself as the ‘politician unlike all other politicians’, he has managed to make an establishment party seem anti-establishment and a member of the social elite appear as a man of the people. Anyone who glances at his background with realise that actually he is more privileged than the majority of those he criticises – but none of this matters because he is the only politician (with a few exceptions of course) that seems genuine, and this is crucial at a time when trust in politicians is at an all-time low.
The problem with most of our political leaders is that they are so obsessed with being liked that they no longer stand for anything. All the main party leaders are in favour of same-sex marriage because the public is, they are all in favour of improving the NHS (at least they pretend to be) because the public is. Farage is not like that, he will take a stand on a contentious issue regardless of whether or not it will make him popular, you might not like him but this is an admirable quality in anyone, especially in a politician. The public are sick of slick media savvy politicians that take hours to not answer a question. When someone like Farage sits on Question Time and answers questions with Yes’ and No’s it is authentic and refreshing.
The big challenge for UKIP is whether or not the party can unite around a manifesto. Unfortunately, apart from being eurosceptic and anti-immigration, they do not seem to have any shared values. Farage speaks about being a Thatcherite and a classical liberal – but if that is reflected in UKIP’s polices, it may not go down well with the ex-Labour supporters that UKIP has gained due to their frustration with New Labour. Unless a politician as authentic as Farage, willing to take on his ideologies and rhetoric, appears very soon then I think UKIP with continue to make ground and probably do fairly well at the 2015 general election.
We must address the disconnect between politicians and the people but, also, the Left needs to recognise that it has left a vacuum in which the Right is flourishing – UKIP succeeds because it tells a story that resonates with voters, the Left must tell an opposing story if it wishes to push back UKIP and choke off its brand of the politics of fear which is starting to dominate our political landscape.