Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Can UKIP pull off normalisation?

Nigel Farage is trying to re-badge his party as something more than a single-issue anti-European receptacle for protest votes.

The Guardian claims “Nigel Farage promoted the party as a libertarian band of bureaucracy-busters that would slash council tax, put power back in the hands of local leaders and give people more control over their lives” while the Times suggests that he seeks to “woo disaffected Conservative voters by moulding itself as a main-stream right-wing party, with a variety of policies covering voters’ concerns.”

Can Farage pull this off? And is he wise to try? CentreForum blog FreeThink is not convinced: “Whether he could carry his party with him is another matter, not least because, by developing a 'full range of domestic and foreign policies' UKIP will look dangerously like the thing it is campaigning against: all the other parties.”

I beg to differ. I doubt that diversifying beyond single-issue status is beyond UKIP. There is now a lot of space beyond Cameron Conservativism, and plenty of disaffected Thatcherites looking for a home.

Most of the Tories I know make wistful noises about UKIP, wishing it could be more serious and more broad in its appeal. They also generally think Farage its a Muppet (I wonder why!).

However, crucially, UKIP is small. A boost in membership from Tory defectors and they could tilt the balance of power and transform it into a serious (albeit small) party.

The question, therefore, is not whether Farage can move UKIP from being a single-issue to a multi-issue party: he can, but he'd probably be a casualty of the change, as a more serious contender took over.

The real question is, does UKIP actually benefit from being a single issue party? UKIP has thrived (nine MEPs!) by picking up anti-European votes in a political field with no genuinely anti-European party that does not have other issues which might alienate voters (fascism and communism being obvious examples). If UKIP does become a proper political party, they might find that many of their voters are put off by the specific policies they advocate.
Normalisation may not in fact be UKIP’s road to success but an act of suicide manifesting itself as extreme hubris.

1 comment:

Jens Winton said...

So we're damned for being single-policy (we never were) and damned if we put about different policies. No pleasing certain people is there? We'll just keep on doing our thing and bide our time...