The Brexit Party and UKIP
In the wake of the European Elections UKIP’s place in UK politics seems increasingly precarious. A combination of missteps, toying with the far-right, and over reliance on Farage’s personality have left them bereft – can the Brexit Party fill this vacuum?
- The abysmal results of the European elections exposed UKIP’s inability to sustain itself without the backing of the cult of Farage. There is a significant section of the electorate loyal to whatever project Nigel Farage is fronting in a given moment. This allowed UKIP to take first place in the 2014 elections, it brought a majority of the electorate along to vote yes in the Brexit referendum and now it has propelled the Brexit Party to first place.
- UKIP’s hard right turn under former leader Gerard Batten has failed. Under Batten, UKIP aligned closely with Tommy Robinson, brought on board a number of far right youtube and social media creators and became close to what remains of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. This led to a surge in membership but alienated experienced long standing party activists and donors who subsequently flocked to the Brexit Party. With Batten now gone it is unlikely UKIP will keep it’s membership and looks headed for obscurity.
- Even in difficult conditions, UKIP supremely botched their campaign. Lacking experienced activists they leaned heavily on the influence of far right agitators like Carl Benjamin and Paul Joseph Watson and edgy comedians like Count Dankula. Whilst these figures have sizable online followings, they are still relatively obscure in the UK, and have a cavalcade of controversies, extreme positions and bigoted statements for the press and opposition parties to highlight. The prime example of this is the rape ‘joke’ Carl Benjamin tweeted at the MP Jess Phillips which became the focus of UKIP’s campaign nationwide. The party had a confused uncoordinated response to the controversy, dismissing the tweet as satire that was sent a long time ago whilst Carl Benjamin made an even more problematic joke in the same vein on his youtube channel.
- UKIP has long been open to more extreme politics. In 2017 and 2018 UKIP’s youth wing invited figures from Generation Identity to address it’s conference. During the campaign Carl Benjamin organised activists for his campaign on a Discord server where white supremacist content was rife. Now the party looks set for a slow demise it may allow racist sentiments to become more explicit, but it is equally likely that a diminished UKIP would be less attractive as a recruiting ground to fascist groups like Generation Identity.
- Whether the Brexit Party can make gains outside of the European parliament remains to be seen. They came a close second in the Peterborough recall election but badly botched the aftermath of that loss. Fleshing out their political platform beyond their namesake issue may lead to their protest vote coalition to fracture as they take on right wing positions.
For more on the Brexit Party and UKIP you can listen to the latest episode of 12 Rules For What here: