EU Referendum

UKIP: damned with faint praise


In a way, the legacy media are paying UKIP a very real compliment. Not so very long ago, it wouldn't have mattered one iota what the party put in its manifesto. They simply didn't want to know.

Thus, to have the Guardian reporting that Nigel Farage has disowned his party's entire 2010 election manifesto is a measure of how far the party has come. When it is followed by the Mail, the Financial Times, the Telegraph and the Spectator and even The Times, UKIP should have every reason for feeling that it has arrived.

Nevertheless, Farage has not come out well from this "classic dismantling" by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics. The Conservatives have pounced on the YouTube clip as evidence that the UKIP leader is "simply not credible".

But perhaps the cruellest comment of all comes from the New Statesman, which thinks it doubtful that such incidents damage him.

It is precisely Farage's flippancy and his lack of formality ("when it comes to websites, I'm not the expert") that voters find endearing, the NS says:
All that the public, who pay far less attention to policy than most imagine, need to know is that UKIP stands against the Westminster establishment, against immigration, against "human rights", against overseas aid and against the EU. With no expectation that it will hold any significant power after 2015, voters have little interest in its stance on fiscal policy or defence.
"If Farage wants UKIP to eventually become something bigger than a protest party, he will not be able to afford such gaffes", the NS concludes. "But for now, they merely add to his lustre".

Damned with faint praise, that says so much. UKIP, it is saying, is a joke party with joke policies. But the most telling point is that Farage informs Andrew Neil that he will not commit to a new manifesto until after the European elections. What sort of political party goes into a supposedly make-or-break election without a manifesto?

Then, what sort of people vote for such a party?