In August 2014 Douglas Carswell shocked the political world by announcing he was leaving the Conservative Party to join UKIP and in doing so triggered a by-election in his Clacton constituency which he subsequently won convincingly. He then went on to hold his seat in the 2015 General Election, but tensions with the top of the party and in particular Nigel Farage and the direction he was taking the party begun to come to the fore with Carswell calling for the UKIP leader to quit after the General Election in 2015.
More recently revelations have emerged about Carswell’s true motives for joining UKIP. In Owen Bennett’s book on Brexit The Brexit Club it is claimed that Carswell only joined UKIP to undermine Farage and stop UKIP and the UKIP leading running the ‘Out’ campaign for the EU referendum. Carswell is unrepentant about this and claims the success of the Brexit campaign justifies his decision and actions.
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall claimed he was hardly surprised by Carswell’s decision and that ‘Carswell had been becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the party’s direction of travel’, despite Carswell claiming recently he was ‘100% UKIP’. Former leader Nigel Farage long estranged from Carswell could not hide his joy saying the former UKIP MP ‘jumped before he was pushed’ and that now he should call a by-election in his Clacton seat.
Carswell has been unmoved by these calls and claimed that as he was not moving to a new party there was no need to call a by-election. This has not stopped Nigel Farage saying that Clacton residents will be contacted by UKIP to ask for their thoughts on whether a by-election should be called and has also cited Carswell’s support for the ‘recall principle’.
Carswell is correct to state that becoming an independent MP is different from moving from one party to another, but cannot hide from the fact that he will now no longer be obliged to follow the manifesto that he was elected on. Carswell was elected to serve as a UKIP MP by the constituents of Clacton. That was an important pledge Carswell made to his constituents. This pledge has been broken and should justify a by-election.
Carswell previously called his electorate in Clacton ‘his boss’. If this is something that Carswell still truly believes, then he should call a by-election as he did in 2014 and see whether he has the support to make this decision.
It has been a tumultuous period for UKIP of late. The populist party has bounced from one crisis to another in recent times, beginning when Nigel Farage stepped down after the referendum triggering a leadership contest. This contest quickly turned into a farce when front-runner Steven Woolfe failed to make it onto the ballot submitting his forms late, paving the way for Diane James to win the contest. Diane James lasted 18 days in charge before resigning leaving questions about whether she had wanted to run in the first place. This resignation meant Nigel Farage was announced as interim leader and it was confirmed a new leadership contest would take place.
Steven Woolfe was first to declare his candidacy in this new contest promising to learn lessons from the last contest. Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to Nigel Farage and editor-in-chief of Breitbart UK also confirmed his desire to stand. This was before things took a turn for the worse in Strasbourg this week when Steven Woolfe was rushed to hospital (fortunately he now seems to be recovering!). It later emerged there had been an “altercation” between Woolfe and Mike Hookem (another UKIP MEP) over the news Woolfe had been in talks about defecting to the Tories (exactly what happened here is still unclear, so it’s unwise to speculate at this stage). Subsequently an inquiry has been announced.
These events have been seen as being systematic of the underlying tensions which have existed in the party for quite some time. For a relatively small party UKIP are riven by factions and infighting. At its most simple it can be split between those who are loyal to Farage and those who are loyal to Carswell (UKIP’s only MP) but in reality it is far more complicated than that. After recent events major donor Arron Banks has threatened to leave the party if Woolfe is barred from standing and Neil Hamilton and Douglas Carswell stayed in the party, possibly taking away UKIP’s war-chest. From the Carswell wing of the party it is considered likely Suzanne Evans will run for leader paving the way for a very bitter leadership campaign.
Despite all these problems UKIP have showed they are still a political force winning a council seat off Labour in Hartlepool and continuing to poll around 12%. Of course there are challenges ahead, such as re-positioning themselves and finding a leader with similar appeal to Farage but this indicates there remains a place in the British political spectrum for a party with right-wing populist appeal such as UKIP, especially given questions about Labour’s long-term future. Whether this is UKIP in its current form or whether it is a new party or movement is up for dispute, but what is clear if this particularly form of UKIP wants to survive then they need to sort themselves out fast as they will not survive many more weeks like this.
In the midst of the drama occurring within the Conservative and Labour parties it would be easy to forget that UKIP too are searching for a new leader. Nigel Farage has stepped down (it appears for good this time) and the race is on to replace him. Furthermore deputy leader Paul Nuttall has confirmed he will not stand for the position opening the race to an even greater extent.
The next leader will face a difficult task in taking over from Nigel Farage. Farage was not everybody’s cup of tea but undoubtedly has been one of the most influential politicians in recent years and ultimately has been successfully in his main aim. He was a key driving force behind UKIP’s appeal and the effect his departure will have should not be underestimated.
UKIP as a party have achieved their main target, but can still continue to be relevant. Across the North of England UKIP have emerged as Labour’s biggest rivals and given Labour’s current crisis and the large Brexit vote in many Labour heartlands UKIP have fertile territory to work with. A negotiated Brexit settlement which places the free market above ending free movement would also give UKIP another selling point.
So who could be the figure to lead UKIP into this new era? Steven Woolfe MEP for the North East of England and UKIP spokesman on Migration and Financial Affairs appears clear favourite. Woolfe is mixed race and grew up in working class Manchester. He appears well placed to cement UKIP’s pivot to the North and would greatly improve UKIP’s image. His main rivals are likely to be Diane James and Suzanne Evans (though she remains suspended currently), although funder Arron Banks could yet enter the race.
UKIP as a party have an opportunity but they need to be astute. Firstly they must pick a leader who can appeal beyond their base and reach out to new supporters. Secondly they have to heal the wounds between the Farage wing of the party and the Carswell/Evans wing of the party and cannot tear themselves apart. If UKIP can achieve these tasks then they very much have a future in British politics. Don’t write off UKIP yet!
Nigel Farage’s recent claim that the Leave campaign has carried an ‘upbeat’ message further evidences the Leave side’s attempt to portray itself as the more positive of the two referendum campaigns. However, the disheartening truth is that both sides have quite clearly been motivated by fear and political opportunism. Debate will rage after June 23rd on what the future holds for the nation depending on of the outcome of the vote. What will be beyond debate, is the undeniable truth that this referendum campaign has been a deeply costly one in terms of the divisions that it has created in British society and politics.
Proving that both of the campaigns have been motivated by fear is not difficult. One cannot deny the incessantly negativity of the arguments produced by the Remain side. David Cameron has implied that a Brexit could put peace and stability in Europe at risk, while the criticism of the Leave campaign’s plans for building new trade relations with the EU and other nations has been constant. It has also become clear that the Leave campaign’s very existence is based on the fears that people have over the impact of migration, the strain being placed on the NHS and housing markets, terrorism and loss of sovereignty. If these fears were not present, there would be very little debate over Britain’s EU membership.
There are also a number of question marks over the motivations of politicians from both sides. Is Boris Johnson using the Leave campaign to put himself in contention to fill the power vacuum at the head of the Conservative Party once David Cameron steps down? Why were articles on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal website that espoused eurosceptic views deleted prior to his becoming Labour leader? Amongst the viciousness of this debate, the opportunistic and untrustworthy nature of many politicians has come to the fore.
This referendum has brought out the worst in modern day politics. Facts and arguments have been exaggerated and twisted, with fear mongering and opportunism clearly evident. Healing public faith in politics and reconciling members of the two political factions to work together again will be as much a challenge as dealing with the result of the referendum. There is already the potential of a second referendum if Britain votes to remain. For many, the thought of having to go through another campaign like this one is too much to contemplate.
The outcome of the E.U referendum is likely to have profound implications across the political spectrum in this country. After a hectic period of campaigning all political parties will face a challenge to return to some sort of norm. In particular this will be a real struggle for UKIP, who throughout their history have been defined by this topic. The question is can UKIP survive or even flourish after the referendum?
A victory for the Brexiteers and by definition UKIP places the whole country in an unprecedented situation. David Cameron would be forced out and the country would be plunged into immediate negotiations over trade deals with Europe and the rest of the World. In this scenario UKIP may argue that only they can ensure a proper deal is negotiated and that the British public aren’t betrayed.
The other possibility is a win for the ‘Remain’ side. As the SNP have shown in Scotland, a referendum defeat does not spell the end for a political party or even that particular debate. Euroscepticism and fears over immigration will remain after the referendum and possibly a new opportunity could even emerge for UKIP to corner the Eurosceptic market in this country. Those hoping UKIP disappear after a referendum defeat will be sadly disappointed.
Leading figures within UKIP have already begun planning for this future. Over the last few weeks briefings to the press have started over a potential re-branding of the party after the referendum in the same style of the Italian Five Star Movement set up by Bepo Grillo. This movement pioneers online engagement and allows members to vote on policies. Although this has been tried successfully across Europe, it would be a first for this country.
Politics is an ever-changing dynamic and political parties have to constantly think on their feet. At this stage this proposal is only a consideration but UKIP may just be ahead of the curve here and therefore this is a situation to keep your eye on. One thing that can be guaranteed is that in one form or another UKIP are here to stay. The referendum will not and does not change this!
The UKIP has been building the majority of its campaign on issues related to immigration and anti- European Union Policies. It is vital for every political party to have a strategy, but what the UKIP leader Nigel Farage did during the TV debate with the other leaders was disgusting. Mr Farage has stated that 60 % of the people diagnosed with AIDS each year are from overseas. All of the participants in the leader’s debate, except the Prime Minister have condemned Farage’s statement. In UKIP’s manifesto is stated that if its measures for insurance of each person coming to the UK are implemented ₤ 2 billion per year will be saved to the UK taxpayers. However, the reasons of the majority of the immigrants in the UK are economic, instead of intentionally coming to benefit from the so called ‘health-tourism’. The case with the healthcare is different- the immigrants are also paying taxes hence they contribute to the UK economy. Why they will need to be double-taxed- to pay taxes and at the same time to pay for health insurance- something that they already have paid for?
Another ridiculous statement of UKIP is that the immigrants are taking the jobs of the British people. If you consider the facts carefully, there is still a demand for non-qualified jobs- like agriculture, cleaning etc. Looking at the percentage of the British people working in these sectors, simply there is no interest from the local people to work in these sectors. If there is a demand for the business, that means that the gap needs to be filled somehow and the absence of interest from the local population leads to these trends.
The people have easily forgot the hysteria that was created by Nigel Farage the end of 2013, when the restrictions for the Bulgarian and Rumanian citizens were lifted. Mr Farage was making loud statements that as soon as the restrictions are lifted, the entire population of these countries will come to the UK to live on benefits and take the jobs of the British citizens. The actual reality was different, most of the people who had desire to come to the UK were already here, even before the accession of the two countries in the EU in 2007 there was a possibility for the people to obtain a working visa.
The main problems for the UKIP are the immigrants and the European Union. UKIP simply does not provide any political solution to the problems. Unlike the other political parties, UKIP does not provide a comprehensive political programme, it just relies on the populist statements. The most ridiculous facts are that Mr Farage himself has French origin and his second wife is German.
It needs to be emphasized that the politics of hatred should be avoided. The politicians must take responsibility for their actions and give example to the society. The British society has proved its tolerance and multicultural identity and have to be proud of that. The people also must take responsibility by reading carefully and thinking carefully what the programmes of the political parties offer and whether their goals might be implemented.