Dan Hannan has penned an article for Capx that is possibly his most critical of UKIP’s damage to the Brexit cause.
Well, there is an election coming…
As is Dan’s habit on Twitter, he retweeted someone who linked to his article. This time he retweeted me, which not only opened up the prospect of many more retweets (and a few more followers to prop up one’s vanity) but it also meant I saw the 20+ replies.
Aside from the one or two in agreement, the replies fell into two camps:
1. “UKIP deserve credit for forcing the issue into the wider political debate”
2. “UKIP is the only game in town where Brexit is concerned”
There is some truth in the first, but only in the narrow sense that UKIP’s issue is specifically about high immigration, some of which is caused by EU membership. And importantly the emphasis is on the immigration bit not the EU membership bit. Indeed the latter has taken a distant back seat.
Part of the party’s problem is a mistaken conclusion about its own journey: the conclusion that says making a shouty tell-it-like-it-is noise that plays to a particular gallery is what brought them to this point *and* what will carry them through to victory and EU exit. Hence more of the same: foreign voices on trains, immigrants clogging motorways, and immigrants with HIV.
Their theory is presumably that the wider electorate will one day wake up from their slumber and see that there is something important in all that green ink and that they should also get angry. But the reality is that this approach doesn’t work because it quickly hits a ceiling and indeed has already switched off so many people that In/Out polls are now utterly dire for the Out cause.
By any criteria of success for developing a mass movement or plan for Brexit – and the Yougov poll is about as good as they come – UKIP has totally failed.
As to the second point about them being the only Brexit game in town, there is some literal truth in that statement, but their poisoning of the Brexit case illustrates the limits of that literal truth. To quote an older Hannan article, the party has become an end in itself and UKIP’s electoral success only has one relationship with the prospects for Brexit – an inverse one.
A dramatic about-turn in strategy could possibly save the party and with it the Out case. But given the constituency of supporters that UKIP has nurtured over the years, I suspect that will be near impossible.
So the issue is that we now have a dysfunctional UKIP occupying the Brexit field yet simultaneously destroying it by turning people off. And all the while, the pro-EU side jumps up and down pointing to this state of affairs as representative of the Out case.
Sadly what would now be better for the anti-EU movement as a whole is for UKIP to fail at the election and create space for more reasoned arguments.
We shall see soon enough whether that will happen.