There seems to be chaos in the ranks of UKIP- a scandal that started off with Farages unresignation and has extended to squabbles over public money, resignations and people denouncing those whom 2 weeks ago they would call allies. As of 17/05/15 this has culminated in Douglas Carswell, the party’s only MP, calling for Nigel Farage to take a short break although no doubt there will be further developments after this article is published
This chaos and confusion has only been exacerbated by a 24 hour news cycle- Thursdays episode of Question Time shedding little light on the situation. Those not fixated by pre-determined attitudes to UKIP are unable to decide whether this is a much talked about pub-brawl that will soon blow over, as most UKIP supporters believe, or a political implosion in the works-as most UKIP detractors believe.
No-one really seems to know what is going on, so one will not comment on the details in particular.
However, with the growing possibility that Farage will no longer be leader of UKIP soon, and with the ongoing discussion of the direction UKIP should take for the 2020 election, this article will discuss the divisions in the party. These divisions are
1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.
2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP
3. Peoples army UKIP vs politically correct UKIP
1. Blue (economically right) vs Red (economically left) UKIP.
The face of UKIP for most of it’s history and certainly under the early leadership of Nigel Farage was “Blue UKIP”. Disillusioned Thatcherites in exile who left the Conservative Party and joined UKIP sometime between the signing of Maastricht and the present. Such “Thatcherites in exile” include
1. Nigel Farage himself, a former Conservative Party activist who claims he is ” The only politician keeping the flame of Thatherism alive” and has written in favour of Ms Thatcher in his new book “The Purple Revolution.”
2. Douglas Carswell- who wrote a book called “The Plan” in 2009 alongside Daniel Hannan calling for the NHS to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts which they would use to buy healthcare when they needed it. This would in effect be the dismantling of the NHS as we know it. Since joining UKIP he has changed his mind and supported a fully-nationalized health service.
However Carswell can still be found preaching the virtues of free trade free markets and removing big business from politics. It’s clear that although he has to appeal to working class voters, he is still a Thatcherite at heart.
However in their attempt to appeal to working class voters a faction I name “Red UKIP” has been increasingly prominent in the party. These are not Thatcherites in exile, but in fact people disillusioned with Labour and seeking an alternative. Such individuals/ groups include.
1. Alan Sked- A man of the center left who founded the party in 1993 and left it in 1997 and has subsequently founded a party called “New Deal” which describes itself as “a new left-of-centre anti-EU party which he hopes will challenge Labour”. Alan Sked has been critical of the right wing and extremist direction the party has taken under the leadership of Nigel Farage.
2. Patrick O Flynn- The Party’s communications director and economic spokesperson called for an increased in VAT on luxuries- or a “wag” tax at their Autumn conference last year only for the policy to be rejected by Farage instantly. In the controversial interview he did for the BBC he has called for UKIP to be on the “common sense center” of British politics and condemned some of the people close to Farage for promoting an “American Tea Party agenda” such as “gun liberalization” or “scrapping the NHS”- both ideas espoused by Nigel Farage himself in the past.
3. Large numbers of their voters- 73% of whom think the railways ought to be nationalized and 78% of whom think energy companies ought to be nationalized. This puts UKIP voters somewhat to the left of the Labour Party leadership- never mind their own.
2. Socially conservative UKIP vs socially liberal UKIP
One of UKIPs unique selling points is its hostility to what it describes as “open door immigration”. It is clear no-one in the party is going to support open borders. No-one in the party is going to support fascistic closed borders and mass-repatriation. Within those 2 extremes there are shades of difference. For example Douglas Carswell in his victory speech in the Clacton by-election of 2014 said “We (UKIP) must be a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation as much as every other”. This contrasts Nigels comments on the failure of multiculturalism made shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
It is now more important then ever for immigrants to ensure that they have the correct visas and rights to be in the UK. There are multiple visas like the Tier 1 Entrepreneur or long residence visa so it is suggested that you get help if needed to ensure you have valid visas. Immigration is not the only issue where the party is divided. Nigel Farage has come out in the past in favour of drug legalization- saying the war on drugs has failed. However he has said that he is at odds with most of his party on the subject- though he is reluctant to name names and few have publicly condemned him on the subject. One senior figure in UKIP who clearly disagrees with him is Suzzane Evans who openly agrees with Peter Hitchens’ claim that there is no war on drugs and that it ought to be fought with more vigour. This division is made more complicated by the promise in the manifesto she played a large part in writing which states
“We will not decriminalize illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law.”
This is a middle of the road position that is going to please neither libertarians who wish to decriminalize drugs, or conservatives like Peter Hitchens, who want to prosecute those who posses drugs with more vigour. This dispute over drugs may be one of the disputes between Farage and Suzanne Evans who despite being a relatively new member of the party is widely expected to be the new leader should Farage resign properly.
Farage has also come out in favour of liberalizing gun laws. This is something condemned by Patrick O Flynn, as stated in the linked BBC interview above, and Diane James, their Home Affairs spokesperson. However in a rare moment of agreement Douglas Carswell has supported repealing the Firearms Act 1997- claiming in the aforementioned “The Plan” that it has done nothing to reduce gun crime. He hasn’t expressed a change of heart on this issue since joining UKIP.
Aside from economics, social policy is a key area of policy UKIP cannot afford to be “all things to all people” on. They must either become more conservative, in attempt to gain support of their conservative critics such as Peter Hitchens. Or they must become more libertarian and risk abandoning their conservative supporters but appeal to the disenfranchised right-wing libertarians who increasingly find themselves without anyone to vote for
3. Peoples army UKIP vs Politically Correct UKIP
This is perhaps the most complicated division to explain. UKIP as it stands exists as an “insurgent” party- a protest vote. They are against the “liblabcon” and despise “Political correctness” However their increased poll ratings and their new-found ability to attract people from the political establishment- people like Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, have resulted in a crisis for UKIP. Are they “the peoples army” or are they “Politically correct”
One fallen soldier of the “Peoples army” was Godfrey Bloom. UKIP MEP for 9 years he was ejected from the party after calling countries which might receive foreign aid “Bongo Bongo Land” calling a room full of women “sluts” and hitting Michael Crick over the head with his own party’s manifesto. A full list of his gaffes can be found on his Wikipedia article. Bloom sat the rest of his term as an independent MEP and shortly before leaving the Parliament he gave an interview to Michael Crick comparing Nigel Farage to Stalin in his determination to purge wrongdoers.
Despite Farage’s apparent Stalinist attitude, it would seem fruitcakes keep slipping under his radar. In 2015 alone we have had
1. UKIP MEP for Scotland David Coburn comparing Scottish government minister Humza Yousif with Abu Hamza (no sanctions were applied)
2. UKIP PCC Robert Blay pledging to shoot his Tory opponent Ranil Jayawardena – saying ““His family have only been here since the Seventies. You are not British enough to be in our parliament. “I’ve got 400 years of ancestry where I live. He has not got that.” (suspended immediately)
3. Peter Endean- a council candidate in Plymouth, tweeting pictures of Mediterannian migrants with the caption “Labour’s new floating voters. Coming to a country near you soon”. (No sanctions applied)
The alleged Stalinist Nigel Farage has himself said all sorts of politically incorrect things on Islam, multiculturalism, HIV benefit tourism, the pay gap, gun control, Scottish nationalism, the European Union, Equality legislation and climate change. It is believed his comments during the ITV 7 leaders debate on HIV benefit tourists were a pre-planned dog-whistle to make him stand out from the crowd of politically correct politicians.
This is one of the sources of O’Flynns frustrations- he dislikes the people who advise Nigel, saying they are turning him into a “nasty” man (see interview linked above). O’Flynn clearly wants the party to be more politically correct. This would involve Farage being less “nasty” and “aggressive” and more focused and the party’s main job of convincing the majority of the UK electorate to leave the European Union. O’Flynn is not alone. Douglas Carswell, in a speech aimed at changing attitudes within UKIP said “What was once dismissed as “political correctness gone mad”, we recognize as good manners”. No doubt several other MEPs and hundreds of candidates agree with Carswell and O’Flynns point of view; if they want to be re-elected in 2019 to the European Parliament, or if they are to be taken seriously in future elections, they will not want to be burdened with news stories of controversy from others in their party.
However this is difficult. For many UKIP is the last refuge for controversialists. It is a populist party that has been appealing to all people at the same time, which leads to policy division as seen above. But what is too controversial for UKIP? Some lines are already set in place- you have to agree to its constitution and you have to state you’ve never been a member of a far-right group (BNP, EDL, Britain First, Liberty GB etc). But this still leaves a wide-net, which can let in several bad fish, as detailed above. And if UKIP purged everyone who said anything controversial then I doubt even Douglas Carswell would be attending this Autumns conference.So the fight in UKIP is mainly where to draw the line- what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
To conclude this rather lengthy article- UKIP now suffers the same problem the Liberal Democrats have historically suffered. They are a party with no clear values who try to appeal to all people. What has united them is a popular figurehead (Nigel Farage) and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. There is now no reason they need to be a united party- and so differences that were brushed under the carpet will now have to be openly addressed if they are to survive until 2020.