How to deal with a problem like Ukip? Take them head-on

Calling Farage's party racist allows it to play the victim card. So attack policies instead

Share
Related Topics

Oh dear. How is it that politicians today get it so wrong so often?

The guilty party this morning was Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader.

His error was in berating Huw Edwards and the BBC for reporting on the Ukip surge because “elections in this country are decided on the number of councillors not share of the vote”.

That’s indeed true, and something that any Liberal Democrat will be only too well aware of given that their share of the vote is never representative of the number of seats they end up with.

But to dismiss Ukip because their support was supposedly “patchy” and they didn’t get all that many councillors compared to the Lib Dems made him look ridiculous. So did attempting to shoot the messenger (Huw).

The fact remains that one in four of the people who turned out yesterday (at the time of writing) placed their X in the Ukip box. And that party is going end up with a small, but decent, number of councillors.

Pretending that the Ukip surge doesn’t exist isn’t the way to respond to that. It’s the see no evil hear no evil speak no evil approach, and tells the people that voted for Ukip that they’re being ignored by the Westminster elite. Again.

It actually might be a shame that Ukip hasn’t got more councillors. Protest parties don’t always fare too well when they actually get into office, when the thrill of the election campaigning is over and they have to get down to the drudgery of committee meetings; overseeing planning applications, bin collection and discussing what to do about the persistent fouling of the local park by irresponsible dog owners.

In the meantime, why not do something original and attack Mr Farage’s polices? Put him on the defensive for a change. Ask him how much, for example, the army of foreign students that we host contributes to the economy when everyone’s favourite populist starts talking immigration. We charge them massive fees, without which universities would have to soak our kids even more than they already do.

Ask him how many multinationals are going to come to this country, bringing their factories and jobs, if they don’t feel they can get their people in where they want them. Like the Japanese car firms which do a fantastic job, provide all too rare skilled, well paid manufacturing jobs but whose owners are getting decidedly twitchy about the immigration policies of David Cameron, let alone Mr Farage.

These are issues on which Mr Farage shouldn’t be allowed to wriggle out of with his traditional bluster. They matter. Take him on. Scrutinise his policies.

But you can’t try and ignore him any more. He’s here. We may not like his party all that much, but it’s not going anywhere.

Ultimately the Ukip surge may indeed represent a classic protest vote. Sadly, people still don’t see that local elections count for much. Far too many people view them as little more than an opportunity to punish the misdeeds of their representatives in Westminster.

When the vote “counts”, at least in the mind of the electorate, not only will turnout be bigger but the siren call of Mr Farage and his party will be much easier to resist. Don’t vote Ukip or you’ll let those bastards in (delete as applicable for the identity of the bastards because it’s not just Tories that are losing votes to Ukip).

But until then, the mainstream parties might need to rethink their approaches. They’ve tried calling Ukip racist. Doesn’t work. It allows Ukip to play the victim card. They’ve tried dismissing them. Also doesn’t work. They’ve been around too long, they’ve been picking up too many votes, without all that much media coverage too, at least initially. So that, Mr Hughes, hasn’t worked either.

So try something novel. Take them on. They’ve already managed to make themselves look bad on, for example, gay marriage, in a cynical attempt to create division in the Tory party. There are plenty of other policies they have espoused that don’t stand up to a great deal of scrutiny. So, Mr Hughes, and the rest of you, point that out. You’re experienced debaters. Well you should be.

It might also help if the mainstream parties gave thought to the other issue that Ukip taps into, the feeling that Westminster is dominated by an out of touch elite of professional politicians.

Labour may have made a start on this with Emma Lewell-Buck in South Shields, a local social worker who went to the University of Northumbria and comes from the area. She didn’t look particularly slick or polished or Westminster when she got up to make her victory speech. A few more like her might be an idea.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star