Whatever happens today, UKIP is breaking new ground
UKIP's astonishing and sustained surge should not be written off as splitting the Tory vote – it is the emergence of a new political force
If you were to listen to the narrow media narrative, UKIP is a party that should be dead in the water in Rotherham. A safe Labour seat in Yorkshire is hardly where masses of tweed-sporting rural Eurosceptic Tories reside.
For many years those within UKIP have bellowed that yes, we have ex-Labour supporters, trade unionists, and many working class members amongst our ranks. I have heard some senior journalists unable to fathom how the party could possibly have a scouser from Bootle, one of the most deprived areas of the UK, as Deputy Leader.
As it happens, UKIP’s candidate for Rotherham Jane Collins (who also finished second in Barnsley) comes from a mining family and, as UKIP’s first potential MP, is a very good embodiment of how diverse the make-up of UKIP is internally.
The truth is that UKIP is not the single issue, Tory-lite party that many caricature it as. It would be far easier for the political establishment if that was true and the party appealed to only a certain type of voter in the way that say, the Green Party does.
UKIP is however far more dangerous and electorally resilient than that because it can appeal to voters in Rotherham, Hull, and Dudley as well as to those in the Home Counties, East Anglia, and Wales. Nigel Farage put it best when he told me that there isn’t a town or street that a UKIP campaigner cannot win support on – there are no ‘no-go areas’ as there are for the old tribal parties.
Coming second in a place like Barnsley, as UKIP did last year, demonstrates that the UKIP message in Labour strongholds can be far more appealing than what the Tories or LibDems can offer. A campaign based on limiting migration, allowing landlords to choose whether drinkers can smoke in their pubs, and the restoration of grammar schools to rebuild social mobility all resonates with people in deprived areas as much if not more than those in traditional Conservative heartlands. It is these people in particular who suffer the consequences of mass migration into Britain: less jobs, more youth unemployment, and towns and cities that can quickly become ‘ghettoised’.
The fact is that come the next General Election UKIP will more than likely have a candidate in every single seat across England, Wales, Scotland, and possibly even Northern Ireland where the party now has an MLA. The party’s astonishing and sustained surge should not be written off as splitting the Tory vote – it is the emergence of a new political force, not a temporary splinter group.
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