Richard North, 13/11/2014  
 

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Mark Reckless is set to win next week's Rochester & Strood by-election with a lead of 12 percent, a poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft suggests. Ukip gets 44 percent, the Conservatives 32, Labour 17 and the Lib-Dems a mere two percent.

However, only 72 percent of those intending to vote for Ukip next Thursday are likely to repeat the experience in May, leading to suggestions that the Conservatives will retake the seat at the general.

That much would be par for the course. It is not uncommon for by-election wins to be reversed once the drama of the special circumstances have abated, so it is quite possible that Mr Reckless's new-found career as a Ukip MP might be short-lived.

However, there is another reason, aside from Lord Ashcroft's poll, and it is one which may well have more general effect, possibly helping to bring crash the Ukip effect altogether. Such would be a much overdue corrective to a situation that has fed on the disintegration of classic party politics, which are becoming weirder by the day.

Predictions in this game – especially as to timing – are always fraught, but what is of special interest is this article in the Guardian, which takes apart Farage, in particular, and Ukip in general, over the inconsistencies in their policy statements.

We've been long convinced that these inconsistencies are Ukip's Achilles' heel, and our Pete has been doing a heroic job over at Complete Bastard analysing the increasingly dysfunctional mindset. But, while real Conservatives can beat Ukip where they are weakest, in coming up with sensible policies, what the Guardian has "discovered" for itself could be a game-changer for the "Left".

Moving on from what Ukipists would call "smears", the newspaper has now recognised that it has a bottomless well, one which will provide an inexhaustible supply of material to fuel attack copy for as long as there any point in publishing it.

And with the Guardian discovering the motherlode, the BBC can't be far behind and then, as the Tory tribalism kicks in with the onset of the general election campaign, we may well see the "Right" take turns to capitalise on this weakness.

Parties and politicians can stand most things, especially when they are on the ascendancy, but the one thing that is always damaging is ridicule. And Ukipists have been laying down material for so long now that it would be positively uncharitable not to mine it.

How can one possibly resist the entertainment value of Farage proselytising on an insurance funded health service, only for a spokesman now to say of his opinion, "Obviously things have moved on significantly since then. That was then and this is now. It doesn't stand up to say that's still his view". That, of course, it this week ... next week is an altogether different matter. 

Sadly for the party, there is no prospect of a cure for this policy incontinence. The die has already been cast. UKIP has been all over the place for so long that virtually any new material is almost bound to provide ammunition for an "inconsistency" meme. For instance, if anyone cares to look closely at their ideas for free trade and "Brexit", there is endless scope for amusement.

For all that, the party cannot say it hasn't been warned. Candid friends have for decades been telling it that its lack of coherent policy is a potentially terminal weakness, but since this has evoked defensiveness and and the tedious, if predictable hostility, few outside the party are prepared to do much more than stock up with the popcorn and wait for the train crash.

Maybe the party will defy all predictions and make it big-time at the general election, but Farage's latest stunt on a "deal" with Miliband is nothing if not spectacularly ill-timed, and bodes ill for the future. He is shackling himself to the rotting corpse of a failing party leader, as Miliband polls only 13 percent in the leadership stakes.

Nothing on the other hand, is calculated to build confidence in the Conservatives as the alternatives, but with the Scottish Labour Party in a state of collapse and the polls tilting in favour of Mr Cameron's party, three points ahead of Labour, the only thing that looks capable of stopping them now is Ukip.

When people look at Miliband, they obviously have serious difficulty thinking of him as a prime minister, and with Farage and his train-wreck policies behind him, the Conservatives are struggling to avoid looking an attractive electoral proposition. How ironic it would be if making that so was Farage's lasting gift to politics.

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