UKIP: Why it’s the beginning of the end for the single issue party which thrived on personality politics | Liam O’Dell

After UKIP’s National Executive Committee’s vote of no confidence in his leadership today, leader Henry Bolton was right: “the party is probably over”, and here’s why.

Photo: Derek Bennet/Flickr.

It was a bitter stalemate for a party which rose to success of the back of personality politics before it was ‘cool’. With a couple of resignations recently during Bolton’s time as UKIP leader, who knows if any more could follow should the former police officer manage to hold on to his position. No matter what happens now (whether Bolton resigns or members vote him out), a replacement is on the horizon in what would be an election for the fifth UKIP leader in the space of 18 months. When one considers June 2017’s snap election in amongst all these contests, could so-called ‘voter fatigue’ take its toll and finally bring an end to the UK Independence Party?

When Nigel Farage announced his resignation as leader after the 2016 EU referendum, numerous media outlets and commentators said such a decision had created a ‘power vacuum’. Now, three leaders later and it seems as though such a vacuum at the heart of the party is yet to be filled – for one good reason.

Whilst the media circus hasn’t bothered to explore the specific details of the in-fighting in UKIP (or, arguably, such details haven’t come to light), it seems as though the party longs for Farage’s return. Putting the politician’s popularity within the party aside, it was Nigel Farage that created the image of UKIP. Throughout the referendum campaign, journalists mentioned how leaving the European Union was an issue for which Farage had campaigned for many years. There’s a reason why US President Donald Trump has described the politician as ‘Mr Brexit’ – it’s because, even before the referendum was called, Brexit has been seen as ‘his baby’.

Since Farage’s departure as leader, the Conservatives – tasked with delivering Brexit – has soaked up the slogans and obsession that UKIP left out in the open during the power vacuum. The Tory claims about Labour MPs going against ‘the will of the people’ during the EU Withdrawal Bill debate is a type of whinging and complaining one would expect from UKIP, if they had becoming the strong ‘pro-Brexit voice’ the party has said they want to be.

However, with no MPs in Parliament, it’s a bit hard to be that voice when there’s no representation in the House of Commons, and the Conservatives are the only right-wing party pushing for a successful Brexit and have the responsibility and power to do so. Why should members support a ‘pro-Brexit voice’ outside of Westminster and add a further degree of separation when they can call on the Prime Minister (or, even their local constituency MP if they’re a Tory) to take direct action?

Granted, the fact that the UK still hasn’t left the EU yet may warrant such a voice in the debate, but the fact that UKIP are still the United Kingdom Independence Party following such a vote is baffling. An attempt to refresh the party with a new logo – despite it leading to some issues with the Premier League – may indeed have been a welcome move in terms of pushing the party forward post-Brexit, but it still grounded them to a single political issue.

In order to survive, UKIP must find a bold and likeable personality to fill the Farage-shaped hole in their party, and branch out from one single issue. Yet, with reports that the ex-leader may set up his own pro-Brexit party, the former seems unlikely. As for the latter, UKIP would have to go to the drawing board to think of national policies – besides Brexit – for which to campaign on. At a time of problematic leadership and in-fighting, it seems unlikely that the party would be able to agree on much as members’ patience runs thin.

With another leadership contest looming, this is the beginning of the end for UKIP.

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Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back by Matthew d’Ancona (REVIEW)

How does one begin to explain the current social and political climate in the Western world? A chain of unprecedented events has created a plethora of new, futuristic vocabulary (such as alternative facts, fake news and the Oxford English Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2016, post-truth) that are yet to be properly defined. Although, that hasn’t stopped some individuals from taking on the mammoth task of providing much-needed clarity. Matthew D’Ancona’s exploration of post-truth delves into existentialism, post-modernism and digital mediums with a final call-to-action which is to be expected from an established British journalist and columnist.

Photo: Penguin Books.
With such a relevant background, one would assume that fake news – as a by-product of post-truth – would be featured heavily in the 150-page book. Yet, save for a couple of small sections on the topic, fake news isn’t mentioned that often. Instead, D’Ancona’s analysis of post-truth acts as a centre-point – a springboard – for him to jump seamlessly from discussions about social media and clickbait to the role of satirists.

Given the short length of the book, Matthew is quick to jump to the heart of his commentary, which appears to be that of post-modernism. To explain such a complex subject (and one which lacks clarity) with a critical perspective that is just as vague and detailed is a bad move, but a move d’Ancona makes nonetheless. Whilst he should be commended for trying to define the indefinable, a couple of sentences is not enough to clarify the main basis for his argument. Long story short, I was thankful that my knowledge of post-modernism from A-Levels hadn’t left my mind completely, but that’s not to say that I didn’t struggle to understand the basis for d’Ancona’s argument. As someone who approached the book with a brief knowledge of what post-modernism entails, one has to wonder whether someone without said understanding would be able to comprehend the more intrinsic aspects of Matthew’s commentary.

Nevertheless, like most works of non-fiction, Post-Truth includes some interesting and thoughtful points about the decline of trust and accuracy following Trump and Brexit. It’s towards the end of the book – the fifth chapter titled ‘”The Stench of Lies”: The Strategies to Defeat Post-Truth’ – where d’Ancona really sells his perspective. Summarising the best bits from previous chapters, the columnist reminds us of the current situation, and attempts to provide some solutions to the post-truth problem the Western world is currently experiencing. Although this section contains the motivational bravado possessed by most successful newspaper columnists, it still feels somewhat disorientating despite D’Ancona stating many options for society going forward.

If anything, Matthew d’Ancona’s Post-Truth raises more questions than it does providing answers, although that is understandable given the complexities of the subject matter. Whilst it is far from the definitive conclusion to the problem of falsehood, the journalist has at least begun to shed some light on an important socio-political issue in this small publication.

2017 must be the year of redirection | The Friday Article

December is a month which always prompts reflection. It’s a time when we all look back at the New Year’s Resolutions we made in January and then subsequently forgot about, whilst once again scrutinising the news stories which broke over the past 12 months.

The past year was a one of fear, loss and division, but as the New Year offers us the opportunity to hurl our favourite expletive at 2016, we must not put it in a box and simply move on. We all know that 2017 will likely involve some aftershocks from key political events this year (those being Trump and Brexit, of course), but we must be ready, and use the lessons of 2016 to prepare ourselves.

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Photo: Megan Trace on Flickr (changes have been made). Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode.

UK politics is like a soap opera full of unnecessary drama that none of us want to see, where the theatrical Prime Minister’s Questions is like an argument on the cobbles of Coronation Street. However, with any soap opera, tuning in at the wrong time leads us scratching our heads and wondering what on earth is going on. Yet, when it comes to British politics, we only have to thank our vote to leave the European Union in June 23 for shaking up and redefining the system. Now, the soap opera that is the UK political scene has gone right back to episode one. This is the time for young people to get interested in public affairs.

One can only hope that 18-25 year olds are still passionate about the subject after Brexit, as the historic vote determines how our future pans out. Although, whilst leave voters will keep a close eye on the government’s plans for our exit, the question of whether those who backed remain continue to be involved in politics is debatable.

A YouGov poll earlier this year revealed that 71% of 18-25 year olds voted to stay and 64% of 65 and overs backed the leave vote. It was a poll (or a variant of it) which made its way onto social media after the vote was announced and numerous people made the remark about the voices of young people being drowned out by the older generation. However, as we move into 2017, young people must not be angry at older people for carrying out a democratic act. To give up voting in resignation or protest would only reduce the voice of young people in general elections or referenda. The frustration and disenfranchisement must stop and be replaced by a call for politicians to listen to us as a generation – especially when it comes to having our say on Brexit. As British politics returns to phase one, now is the perfect time for young people to grasp the current political climate, stand up, and voice our concerns.

Whilst 18-25 years must continue to place pressure on politicians, another sense of redirection must occur when it comes to dealing with the rise of right-wing populism. The referendum in June asked the British people whether they trusted the representative body that is the European Union, and we decided that we were going to leave it. Rather than the aftermath of the decision raising questions about the political establishment in both the UK and Europe, a campaign of misdirection by Vote Leave moved the topic of discussion onto immigration and free movement (after their economic argument somewhat failed and the giant red bus became a parody). This, of course, is an important issue to debate and consider, but this new, nationwide talking point also gave the racists, neo-Nazis and far-right nationalists a sense of validation when it comes to targeting specific races or religions. That has to stop in 2017.

It’s something which has been explained before, but instead of blaming government (the policy-makers), those who possess these extreme right-wing views blame immigrants when it comes to issues such as jobs and housing.

This is why 2017 must be the year of redirection. Frustration, if it is to remain in the new year, must be aimed at the right people: the establishment. Alongside that, of course, positive emotions and feelings must emerge – those being love, passion, unity and hope.

The High Court’s ruling on Brexit: When democracy and constitution collide | The Friday Article

Brexit is a political enigma. Whilst Theresa May continues to scratch her head at what it could possibly mean – apart from the very helpful ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – the British public’s vote to leave the European Union has caused an economic crisis (until a recent decision saw it increase dramatically) and now, a constitutional one as well.

The High Court said the government must consult Parliament on the triggering of Article 50. Photo: James Cridland on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode.
The High Court said the government must consult Parliament on the triggering of Article 50. Photo: James Cridland on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode.

What is democracy? It’s a question with a sense of political existentialism which can only come around after such an important vote. The winning ‘leave’ vote was democracy in action, but now a ruling by the High Court has thrown up this question once again. Is it a decision which undermines the voice of the people, or is it a constitutional necessity? Now is a time when constitution and democracy collides.

The EU Referendum was nothing more than an advisory vote. Constitutionally, legally binding decisions come from Parliament and not the British people. MPs do that job for us and on this occasion, a little blip in the writing of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 means that the view of the public may be ignored in order to make a decision which is encased in law. Whilst making the ‘leave’ vote legal would do a good job of ending some aspects of the debate and add another big string to the government’s bow, the big concern lies with MPs: will they represent the view of their constituency, stick to the party line or vote based on their own opinions?

Keen to get to work on leaving the European Union and ‘make a success out of Brexit’, Theresa May and the rest of her cabinet seem to have shut themselves off from Parliament when it comes to triggering Article 50 and the negotiations that follow. Although the Prime Minister’s point about not having ‘a running commentary’ about the government’s plans is valid, having a political party make such a big national decision without criticism, commentary or accountability through Parliament sounds awfully familiar. In particular, it’s arguments you heard from the ‘leave’ side about the European Union. Oh, the irony.

If MPs do get to vote on triggering Article 50, then they should reproduce a result identical to June’s vote – to do the opposite would undermine the democratic element of Parliament. A decision as big as Brexit needs cross-party involvement. An early general election may not be at the forefront of the debate for now, but it is still on the horizon (worryingly for Labour). Although this would be great for allowing the public to choose their preferred avenue out of the EU – be it hard Brexit or soft Brexit – the Conservatives seem so keen to do the job all by themselves. Therefore, the involvement from other parties must come from criticising the government’s decisions on a regular basis.

Will politicians honour the result of the referendum if an Article 50 vote goes to Parliament? Of course, that’s uncertain, but it’s likely the Conservatives will vote to formally leave the EU to respect the view of British people (a stance they’ll promote like crazy under Theresa May’s ‘working for the majority, not the privileged few’ slogan). Meanwhile, the SNP – a thorn in the Tories’ side ever since the vote, after Scotland voted remain – are likely to oppose the triggering of Article 50. The Liberal Democrats, with leader Tim Farron keen to encourage more scrutiny of May’s Brexit decisions, will probably vote against it as well (the party opposed Brexit). As for Labour, it’s a question of whether the party is able to group together under Corbyn’s leadership to vote ‘no’ to the vote. In the most dramatic and undemocratic of u-turns, MPs could vote against Article 50, we’ll rejoin the EU and the months of crises will just serve as a haunting reminder of the right mess that the UK can get itself into. It’s a long shot, but let’s be honest, Brexit has taught us that anything could happen.

After the High Court’s ruling, what you have are numerous battles. People versus bureaucracy, government versus Parliament, democracy versus constitution. Members of Parliament are there to represent us, but if we’ve already had our say on a particular issue, are they required to do it again on this occasion?

A key element of democracy is accepting the result of a vote, but with the government announcing that they will appeal to the Supreme Court, the question of what decision is being made remains unknown, six months later.

A post-Brexit Britain needs structure and definition | The Friday Article

Brexit has forced us to redefine our society. Existential crises have hit the two main political parties, with talks about Cameron’s replacement and a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn dominating the newspaper headlines. Attitudes in Britain have changed because of the decision to leave the European Union, to an extent where we don’t completely know what politics, or being British is anymore.

Jeremy Corbyn's 'straight-talking, honest politics' may not work after his 'half-hearted' remain campaign. Photo source: Garry Knight on Twitter.
Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ may not work after his ‘half-hearted’ remain campaign. Photo source: Garry Knight on Flickr.

After a leave vote, the electorate is fed up with lies and political propaganda. Corbyn’s promising ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ line he said last year would have worked wonders in a post-Brexit Britain, but not when his ‘half-hearted’ attitude led to an unsuccessful campaign from Labour for us to remain in the European Union.

“At a time where the Tory government is fractured, a dominant opposition could make monumental changes to government policy.”

It is this which has prompted rebellious Labour MPs to trigger an attack against Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party – a move completely unnecessary when he has overwhelming support from unions and the party members, who would obviously vote Jeremy back in again should he be unseated. At a time where the Tory government is fractured, a dominant opposition could make monumental changes to government policy. Instead, we are challenging all aspects of British culture and politics. It something which prompts so many questions that we simply don’t have the time to answer – there is no clear schedule or anything which is keeping British politics alive.

David Cameron was right to resign and create a stalemate across the whole of the political spectrum – not just his own party – to save his career. By delaying both the election of the new Conservative leader (and Prime Minister) and Brexit negotiations until around September, David Cameron will still be known as the Prime Minister who brought about a vote to leave the European Union, but he won’t be the one to actually do it. It’s up to his successor to live with that label, and to move Britain towards an independent state.

With that in mind, Boris Johnson made the right decision to turn Vote Leave’s post-Brexit plans into something which sounded like a manifesto. His idea of an Australian-style points-based system was one of the main policies which of course could only happen should a Vote Leave politician ever get close to the door of 10 Downing Street. With Michael Gove standing in the leadership contest, Vote Leave could see their plans for an independent Britain enacted through Gove as Prime Minister.

“The race to be the next Tory leader may be the vote which determines how the UK plans to leave the European Union, and whether the Conservative Party spirals over to the far-right or continues Cameron’s ‘legacy’.

After all, there’s no doubt that the Conservative leadership contest will be about what each individual candidate plans to do with our relationship with the EU, rather than their manifestos being about new party policies. Earlier this week, Jeremy Hunt proposed that the general public should vote for a Brexit plan in a second referendum, but the race to be the next Tory leader may be the vote which determines how the UK plans to leave the European Union, and whether the Conservative Party goes in a completely new direction under Gove or continues Cameron’s agenda under May.

It’s a referendum which has seen both of the main parties shift in their political stance. The Labour Party is desperate to run away from Corbyn’s far-left attitude, and the Conservative Party is on the verge of a far-right uprising. If Labour and the Tories are both leaning off either side of the political spectrum, then the time may finally come for the Liberal Democrats to take centre stage.

As much as the vote to leave has highlighted Britain’s current attitudes towards the European Union, immigration and many other policies, the next Prime Minister will also have a huge part to play in defining Britain’s society and its politics. Questions about racism, xenophobia, the stigma surrounding immigration, the conflict between the younger and older generations are just some of the concerns that will need to be addressed as the country moves forward.

Politics always demands structure and definition, and after a vote to leave the European Union, this has broken down the foundations of British politics, and what it means to be British. It should not be up to far-right political parties, obsessed with nationalism, to decide our country’s new values.

Already, we’re seeing young people unite to show support for the European Union – and rightfully so. The statistics constantly cited prove that most young people backed the remain vote and now the opposite has happened, young people are more engaged than ever.

There’s no doubt that most people only pay attention to politics when it affects them, and the EU referendum’s ‘vote in a generation’ has impacted the young people of today.

They are now more engaged than ever, but in order to maintain that, political parties must clarify their stance, so young people know where to stand.

A disastrous EU referendum shows we need positive politics | The Friday Article

The EU referendum was a disaster. At a time where the public’s disenfranchisement with politics is continuing to rise, the last thing we want to hear from both sides of the debate is fear mongering and arguing which drifts away from the facts. Granted, with either result, there is a degree of uncertainty – be it whether we achieve reform, or achieve a better trade deal – but there are still lessons to be learnt from one of the messiest referendums in British politics. The main thing being that fear in political debates will get us nowhere.

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Fear, arguments and negativity are angering the general public. We need hope and positive politics. Photo: Darren Tunnicliff on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign proved this all too well. It drifted away from his own policies and instead targeted Sadiq Khan’s background to stir up fear (one of the most controversial moments of his campaign being a column he wrote for the Daily Mail).

Now, both sides of the EU referendum debate have used fear tactics in an attempt to win over members of the public. However, there is a slight difference in their methods. Throughout Britain Stronger In Europe‘s campaign, the fear has always been around the loss of jobs and the £4,300 sum drawn up by the Treasury. Yet, this was the side of the argument labelled ‘Project Fear’, not the ‘leave’ campaign, which made a poor choice to make their final argument about immigration.

Whilst the only extreme comment made by David Cameron during the ‘remain’ campaign was about a possible outbreak of World War Three, Vote Leave’s referendum broadcast was shocking – claiming that the EU’s freedom of movement will ‘destroy’ the NHS (something UKIP, not Tory MPs, would say) through the use of graphics which make it sound like it’s the apocalypse. It was divisive, random and did not summarise the whole of Vote Leave’s campaign – unlike the ‘remain’ campaign, which managed to focus on a variety of points based on referenced facts. Throughout the referendum period, Vote Leave’s videos and leaflets have been full of opinions, not evidence. If we had the facts, the public interest in the referendum would have increased and it would stop invalid and hurtful opinions from being aired.

Soon after Vote Leave’s video was broadcast on national television, the campaign became defined by this fear tactic surrounding immigration. ‘Project Fear’ shifted from the remain camp to the leavers. Now, with the result announced and the referendum put to bed, we must look back at the failings of the referendum as well as looking ahead at Britain’s future.

Fear irritates the public. Not only does it create the ‘us and them’ dynamic which society has come to despise, but it’s almost patronising too. Both Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign and the EU referendum revolved around targeting the opposing view or candidate. Granted, this vote had to involve a lot of predictions and estimates (we didn’t know what the future holds either way), but that only leads to exaggeration, division and manipulative tactics.

Whilst bad news is what sells newspapers, negative politics is what has switched off members of the public from voting and getting involved in political debate. Voters have always been selfish with their votes and want to hear how a policy will positively affect them. At the end of the day, it’s a positive attitude in politics which can win back the public’s trust and lead to a hearty debate.

We may have voted to leave the European Union, and some may struggle to be positive about this, but having hope will be the first step to healing a fractured society.

Liam

The EU referendum is nearly over, and it could have been so different for both sides | The Friday Article

Vote Leave’s campaign has been filled with hyperbole and exaggeration. I’ve talked about their campaign before, and how dangerous claims that free movement will harm the NHS, along with a gradual shift to the far-right, will not win them the referendum, or Boris a place in 10 Downing Street.

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, supports the Grassroots Out campaign, but it was always unlikely to be the official leave campaign. Photo: European Parliament on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

From the start, Stronger in Europe has always been the main campaign for the UK staying in the European Union and it makes sense to have the Prime Minister as the frontman for the group (however contradictory his statements on the EU have been in the past). The mistake came when Vote Leave were chosen as the official campaign for leaving the European Union – that was when the war within the Conservative Party began.

Since then, it’s dwindled down to opinions and arguments, with the undecided voters rightfully asking both sides to just state the facts. Statistics and data are two things which have been manipulated in this debate from either campaign. Claims about Norway and the £4300 sum on the remain side have been debunked as estimates and predictions, whilst Vote Leave’s misleading £350 million figure – which excludes the rebate and other money we get back from the EU – has pretty much defined their campaign for all the wrong reasons.

In the beginning, Vote Leave made the economic argument, before realising that the money we save doesn’t outweigh the risk of job losses and the single market position we have now. Instead, it moves towards immigration, alluding to stereotypes and misconceptions about immigrants affecting our healthcare. The public has already seen scare tactics in British politics – we all know what happened to Zac Goldsmith…

So now, as some leavers voice their concerns about Vote Leave towards the end of the campaign, we can only wonder what could have happened if Grassroots Out or Leave.EU were the official out campaign. Who knows? If Leave.EU did file the judicial review, not only might we have a different leave group, but there were reports it may delay the date of the referendum. It would anger those who have already made up their minds, but it would allow those who are undecided to research more into the European Union.

It is somewhat hilarious that UKIP, as the party which pushed for a referendum on membership of the European Union, hasn’t had much of a say in general. Granted, certain MPs and MEPs have spoken out, but Nigel Farage and Grassroots Out (which Farage supports) have both been brushed aside. As much as Vote Leave wanted to avoid the far-right views of UKIP when it comes to the leave vote, it couldn’t help but move towards these strong views at the end of the campaign.

The initial reluctance from Vote Leave to lean towards these views could have meant that if we had another official leave campaign group which was different, it wouldn’t be Grassroots Out. Whilst some members of the Conservative Party may have views which place them in this group, the majority of Tory leavers may be reluctant to side with this group. In the mad rush for these MPs and MEPS to pledge allegiance to a leave campaign, most may end up siding with Leave.EU.

What that would have meant for the leave campaign? We’ll never know. The sad fact of this debate is that it has become more than a referendum. After watching televised debates, I sympathise with those who have been undecided as to what they will vote for. The EU referendum was full of hyperbole, talk about the future of the Conservative Party, and accusations of scare-mongering.

Who knows? If the official campaign groups were different, all of this could have disappeared and we’d have had a proper debate. The public are fed up with scare tactics and arguments. If we started all over again, we could have had a proper debate – something the general public have wanted for a very long time.

Liam