UKIP, the Lernaean Hydra of British politics

UKIP Logo HydraIn Greek mythology the Lernaean Hydra is a monster with many heads, and every time one head is removed two more grow in its place.

So too, it seems, is the case for the UK Independence Party just now.

Yesterday there was a new (and, for UKIP, rather predictable) media furore about a council candidate in Crowborough who denies the holocaust. This follows candidates with BNP links, and one that said that gay adoption was unhealthy. UKIP, as it has sporadically done in the cases before, suspended the Crowborough candidate from the party.

But while all of this is going on, UKIP is gaining councillors from the Tories – those new heads of the Hydra to replace the ones cut off.

Farage was even forced to admit on The World At One that there are some candidates he would “rather not have” in the party, but I am actually left wondering: does this actually matter? The limit for Farage seems to be to exclude people who are hardline racists, but beyond that not worry too much. Also look at the Olly Neville case – when UKIP tries to do traditional style party discipline and candidate control it blows back at them, internally.

Further, while the liberal press and lefty bloggers are jumping up and down about the Crowborough candidate, the people who might end up voting for UKIP do not probably care that much, and are not going to be the people reading those papers or blogs anyway. And in the meantime the party, with a lot less coverage, keeps building strength.

The only way for the mainstream to deal with all of this is to go for the body of the Hydra, for Farage himself, and for the mainstream parties to put up compelling politicians who can rival him. Until that is done all we will be doing is cutting heads off the Hydra.

[NOTE: the logo is my adaption of the official UKIP logo, and the high resolution version of my adaption can be found here. The Hydra heads are adapted from this CC/Flickr image by RailBlue of a train called Hydra. Feel free to use the logo for your own purposes, with credit.]

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10 comments

  1. Russell White

    Ian Young,

    You have hit the nail on the head. UKIP are Thatcherites masquerading as Populists. Populism is about supporting the small man against the big forces. This cannot be done in a laissez-faire economy. The Populist Alliance has just formed out of the old “Popular Alliance” with a view putting the non-free market case against the EU. Our website http://www.popularalliance.org/ has a broad programme for change. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_Alliance_(UK) for more details. Russell

  2. Ian Young

    The problem for fringe populist parties is how to expand outside of their natural base. Like Marianne Le Pen, UKIP can shore up the hard-right vote while moderating itself enough to also attract non-Fascist disgruntled conservatives with a list of reactionary issues about gays, liberal metropolitan elites and political correctness or whatever.
    But other than a mid-term protest punt, that’s about it for UKIP in the long term. The Front National has a dirigiste economic agenda as is able to attract Gaullists, Socialists and Communists. UKIP by comparison is Thatcherism on steroids. Too many employment rights for UK workers and not enough laissez-faire economics is unlikely to endure in Labour or Lib-Dem seats.

  3. Ian

    I love the fact that the part is lead by the Harry Enfield character Tim Nice but dim. The 3 main parties maybe less than what we want them to be but UKIP is the comedy party and slightly sinister. A stockbroker from Kent with no political experience tells you what you need to know, Question is, how to kill it…

  4. JorgeG

    I must admit that, will all the disdain and instinctive repulsion that I feel for UKIP, there is something undeniably true about them:

    They have a coherent EU policy.

    Completely the opposite to all the other major parties who have only a mercantile vision to offer for the EU and even so it is only when forced to say something positive. They don’t understand what the EU is even if it bit them on the backside, and in the case of the Tories, that is literally the case looking at their fratricide internecine warfare about it.

    Both major parties have exactly the same policy on the EU: a completely infantile and imbecile one that more or less goes as follows: “We want to remain in the EU but in reality the only thing that interests us about the EU is the single market and perhaps the large forum it provides to debate grandiose topics like global warming and international warfare. And by the way, while we love the single market to bits as a great British invention, we reject the most important pillar of the single market, the one that says that silly thing about ‘no internal frontiers and non-policed freedom of movement of persons’. We ran an empire and are not going to allow these bleeding heart continentals to tell us to drop our picket fences separating them from us. We firmly believe that the EU has a democratic deficit and for that reason will continue to collect as many opt-outs, derogations and exceptions as we can get away with and we, Oxbridge uneducated politicians, will not let anyone have a say about these opt-outs, only us who represent the ‘brightest and best’ could and can have a say about rejecting the euro, Schengen, the Charter of Rights, etc. Nobody else, let alone the plebs can have a say. [Tory variation of the same theme from here]. This is why we now wish to repatriate even more powers so that we ensure that only keep the good bits of the EU without any obligations or downsides and then we will perhaps, maybe, run this past the plebs in a referendum. [NeoLab variation from here]. This is why we will continue to work hard to torpedo any new initiative coming from the EU and, if we don’t manage to sabotage it we will demand another one to add to our lengthy list of opt-outs.”

    I honestly don’t know what this lot learnt in Oxbridge but looking at their EU and other policies it is not surprising that people turn away from politics or turn to UKIP.

  5. JorgeG

    @ Jon, don’t try to be a politician, otherwise all your good ideas and common sense will quickly fly out of the window and be replaced with infantile hypocrisy and follow-the-herd mentality. The fact that you have a PPE from Oxbridge demonstrates that “the exception that confirms the rule” is a valid yardstick.

  6. Patrick Harrington

    In Cornwall UKIP were exposed as standing a former BNP member, Sue Bowen, as a candidate. The explanation offered by their local chairman was revealing.

    Tom Hobbs, said he had been placed under pressure by central office to put forward as many candidates as possible as Ukip seeks to capitalise on its 15% showing in national polls.

    “The truth is that the party did want us to field as many candidates as we could. It is not easy to get candidates to stand. When you are looking to fill 20 seats in my division, there’s a lot to do,” he said.

    UKIP were so keen to get a big slate of candidates that they have opened themselves up to candidates who can be shown to have ‘extremist’ links or opinions, as well as all kinds of questionable backgrounds. UKIP may find that those who are elected will be placed under even greater scrutiny with a damaging impact on the UKIP ‘brand’.

  7. Jon

    @Mitch – indeed. But don’t hate me for it – I do have a degree in PPE from Oxford! So maybe I am better off trying to be a blogger, than trying to be a politician…

  8. Jon

    Clever Ralf, clever. Perhaps I should have said “look like they are hardline racists”.

  9. Mitch Grant

    “…for the mainstream parties to put up compelling politicians who can rival him”

    Well, that’s the trouble – voters are fed up with the mainstream parties; as far as they can see they’re nothing but so-called “professional politicians”, mostly educated at private schools, most with PPEs from Oxbridge, and who appear to be out of touch with everyday concerns.

  10. Ralf Grahn

    Hardline or headline racists?