The leaderships of the three main parties are baffled. Day after¬†day they hope, some believe contribute, to exposing the colourful past, or¬†comments of some UKIP minnow, but still Nigel Farage and his¬†fledging party continue to rise in the polls.
A succession of surveys now put UKIP’s poll rating in¬†the mid-20s, on course to come a strong second in May’s European¬†elections, while political betting sites have them as odds on favourites to¬†win.
So why does UKIP seem immune to these negative stories?
Well, one answer is that all parties have their fair share of¬†rotten apples. Just look at the last fortnight and the revelations about¬†former¬†Lib Dem fixer Lord Rennard and Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock.
Both were high profile, had been at the centre of Lib Dem¬†politics for years and complaints about them had been sent to Nick Clegg’s¬†office. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the dithering by the¬†Deputy PM it would have been reasonable to expect a drop in Lib Dem¬†support,¬†but there has been none.
Another and far more plausible answer is that those choosing to¬†vote UKIP aren’t bothered about all the personalities, MEPs, councillors¬†and party officials. Surveys have shown that most people can only name a¬†handful of MPs or MEPs.
To illustrate the point, when Ed Miliband was first elected Labour¬†leader, had been in the Cabinet and stood every chance of being the next¬†Prime¬†Minister, plucky BBC journalist Alex Forsyth took to the streets of¬†Southampton¬†armed with his photo and asked “Who is this man?”, more than half¬†were unable to answer, with some offering his brother’s name.
So why does CCHQ and others think it should be any different for¬†UKIP?
The simple fact is it is not.
After the affable, non-PC, smoking, drinking, shoot from the hip¬†Nigel Farage, I would be surprised if most people could name three other¬†prominent UKIP members.
And trying to expose Mr Farage as different is completely¬†counterproductive, because those defecting to UKIP love this unconventional¬†party leader. They are fed up with canned politicians, tired of the¬†political¬†leaderships of each Party drawn from the same tiny group of professional¬†politicians, and being forced to choose between Mr Bland and Mr Blander.
And in the absence of big policy issues, like those of the 1970s¬†and 80s, they long for authenticity, politicians who don’t play by the¬†usual¬†rules of game. People like Boris, Jacob Rees-Mogg, (dubbed the honourable¬†member for the 18th Century), Red Ken and yes Nige.
And voting for Nigel Farage is a way of sticking two fingers up¬†to the political establishment. It is his authenticity that is boosting the¬†UKIP vote and why it would be a huge mistake for his party’s apparatchiks¬†to¬†follow the other parties and try and eradicate the quirkiness of either¬†their¬†leader or his followers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that UKIP must remain an¬†operation run like Dads Army. If they are serious about making electoral¬†gains,¬†they need a professional campaigning operation, but getting rid of all the¬†colourful characters, the cranks and the loons runs the risk of making UKIP¬†almost indistinguishable from the other parties – Just another PC party¬†without¬†values that is willing to compromise on everything. That would be a huge¬†mistake.
Latest posts by Alistair Thompson (see all)
- Alistair Thompson: Gove sheds crocodile tears over the persecution of Christians at home and abroad - April 5, 2015
- Alistair Thompson: A simple flat rate of income tax would sweep away the hypocritical row over avoidance and evasion - February 25, 2015
- Alistair Thompson: Rochester may be bad for Dave, but it is even grimmer for Ed - November 13, 2014