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Red or Blue: Reconciling the two UKIPs

In the run up to the 2015 general election, commentators began talking about two factions that had supposedly emerged within UKIP: the Reds and the Blues. The story goes like this: UKIP began as a party appealing to a broadly conservative demographic, concentrated in the South of England, especially in Kent and Essex; these people constitute ‘Blue UKIP’. Then, as time went on, more and more voters in the North of England (and Wales, to a lesser extent) became disillusioned with the Labour Party, and started voting UKIP instead; these people constitute ‘Red UKIP’. Since the two factions come from different ideological backgrounds and want to pull UKIP in different directions, they supposedly threaten to tear the party asunder.

The story, whilst not without merit, is much too simplistic. For starters, much of UKIP’s support comes from those who previously didn’t vote at all. In addition, the number of people who switched from Lib Dem to UKIP in 2015 was twice the number who drifted over from Labour, which itself was not that much higher than the number who switched from the BNP. In any case, it is true that UKIP is drawing support from all over the political spectrum. In order to maintain that support, the party needs to be more than a mishmash of different ideas and ideologies; it needs to have a coherent stance that appeals to all of those people. To a certain extent, I think it already does. The key is to conceive of the party in the right way and to build upon that conception.

UKIP needs to present itself as what you might call a ‘radical democratic’ party. That is, a party that wants radical constitutional change in order to restore and enhance British democracy.

Left and right may be framed as political opposites but there’s a key point where libertarian-ish conservatives and anti-authoritarian leftists see eye to eye: they all oppose the concentration of power in big, remote, opaque, unaccountable institutions; they all want to bring power back to the people, the community and the individual. This is where UKIP steps in: by railing against the corporatist political establishment and advocating reforms that will put power back in the hands of you and I, UKIP is speaking to major portions of both left and right.

How does (and should) this radical democracy manifest itself? First, in UKIP’s opposition to the EU. There has always been a small sliver of leftists who realised that the EU was not on their side and the utter contempt displayed by the Troika towards the Greek people over the past two months has pushed many more in a eurosceptic direction. Left and right may not share ideals, but we can at least share the view that whatever happens in Britain should be decided by the British people and the British Parliament, rather than by a contingent of unelected technocrats in a different country.

Looking to the UKIP 2015 manifesto, we also find advocacy of: a recall bill to allow constituents to sack their MP, a proportional electoral system to make seats match votes, reducing the size of the House of Commons, reforming MPs’ expenses, introducing open primaries, and allowing the electorate to call national referenda — all excellent pro-democratic reforms that both left and right can support. The manifesto does not mention reforming the House of Lords; personally, I believe that a fully elected (and much smaller) House of Lords should also be on the UKIP agenda.

In the realm of economics, Douglas Carswell is right to argue that UKIP should be calling for a “popular capitalism”. Both left and right want to combat the corporatist status quo but our solutions differ: the left call for nationalisation, believing that public ownership of institutions makes them democratically accountable. In reality, public ownership is a chimera; economic institutions can either be absorbed into the state apparatus, in which case they are accountable only to the political class (if anyone), or they can remain in the marketplace, in which case they are accountable to the consumers. Big Business loves the state, and hates liberal markets; the liberal marketplace is the friend of the consumer and the small businessman. Getting this message across to the left is not easy, but is certainly worth it. UKIP should not stray from a true free market position; doing so will only help reinforce the established state oriented system.

There is one final point that I would like to make, and that is in regard to style: above all, when presenting our ideas, we must remain positive. It is not enough to simply be against corporatism and corruption and bureaucracy and bank bailouts. It is also necessary to be for something new: a better system, a more democratic system, a system of decentralised power. UKIP is a reformist party, a party that wants to restore the trust of the British people in their political and economic institutions.

In the end, it is not a matter of Red versus Blue, but of those who support the undemocratic status quo against those who want radical pro-democratic reform. This I feel is the place where UKIP carves out a unique and coherent position capable of attracting support from both the left and the right.

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18 Comments on Red or Blue: Reconciling the two UKIPs

  1. In fact right wing views have always been popular with working class people, who are generally assumed to vote Labour (and therefore assumed to be left-wing). In fact, they actually showed strong support for , e.g. the views of Enoch Powell and, indeed, Maggie Thatcher. So really being on the right is no problem when seeking to attract Red and Blue votes. So don’t try and turn UKIP into a socialist party. It could be an environmental party though – and the best way to improve the environment is to reduce immigration.

  2. The learning from Trump is that anti-globalisation, pro-nation state is what captures the imagination of the left-behind voters. To not mention this is a huge omission. Radical democratic reform – including totally reforming the House of Lords (who can witness what the LibDems have done in the HoL and not feel sick to their stomach? Even Clegg’s PA got a peerage!) is where UKIP should be. A country that puts its own people first, where the voice of those same people can never be marginalised again, and where capitalism is tamed (the UK has had a terrible record in this regard), a meritocracy that makes its way in the world by using the brains of all its people to innovate new products, that is the UK I want to see.

  3. An article purporting to be even-handed but missing the main point. Our biggest potential vote – from Old Labour – isn’t interested in political philosophy. What it wants is working-class-friendly economic policies – and they’re not going to come from the Thatcherite marketeers who still dominate UKIP. This has to be changed, quickly, and middle earners convinced where theirs and the country’s true interests lie too. Not difficult to get strategic direction and policies right if we use our noddles.

  4. Stephen Barraclough // July 29, 2015 at 9:14 am // Reply

    “..UKIP needs to present itself as what you might call a ‘radical democratic’ party. That is, a party that wants radical constitutional change in order to restore and enhance British democracy..” Whch of course means simply THAT IT DRAWS SUPPORT FROM ALL ROUND THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM – IS NEITHER OF THE LEFT NOR THE RIGHT thus making such terminology redundant!

    • Mmmm………perhaps clarity as to what we mean by ‘restore and enhance British democracy’, might be good.
      Do we mean representative democracy as practised by the Greeks, or will it take further measure, such as referendums, recall, legally binding manifesto’s and a written constitution all in one place, specifiaclly for the British (English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland?).
      UKIP needs to make clear what we mean by restoring sovereignty, freedom of choice and democracy in its many forms, and to choose from.

  5. ‘Both left and right want to combat the corporatist status quo but our solutions differ: … …. In the end, it is not a matter of Red versus Blue, but of those who support the undemocratic status quo against those who want radical pro-democratic reform.’

    There is not much point arguing about the solution until we have the means to decide for ourselves and implement our choice. So long as we are members of the EU we are denied that. So the first thing is to restore sovereign parliamentary democracy so that there is a point to debates in parliament. That is the single issue for Ukip and its raison d’etre. Trying to have policies across the board so as to form a government is not its role and weakens it by opening up unnecessary division and invites criticism from all points of the political spectrum.

    Once sovereignty is restored to Parliament then the left and right can go for it hammer and tongs in the very forum set up specifically for that purpose. It is not Ukip’s role, at least at present, to take sides in that debate.

    Ukip must stick to the central argument that supra-national government is the antithesis of parliamentary democracy. The EU-philes have no answer to that. Ukip just needs to flesh this out to relate to ordinary people who are not in the habit of thinking much about the constitution. After all, that parliamentary democracy stuff was all settled in the 17th century wasn’t it? Well, yes it was for England but not for the rest of Europe and some member states barely have it today and they, not our own parliament, decide over 65% of legislation in Britain.

  6. This article barely scratches the surface.
    How are the utilities we have at present in a market? The electricity, gas and water coming to my home is the same regardless and half my costs for these goes to foreign pension funds and shareholders – basically we all are being ripped off!!!

  7. Proportional representation ? I think not . It would be great for Ukip as we would have many more seats , but just look at the last 5 years ,coalition government wiped out the Liberal party and that is what you would have with proportional representation for any minor party who joined a coalition . Far better to reduce the number of MPS and balance out the constituencies according to population

    • There are different types of PR and one could develop a version to suit our needs. Proportionally, UKIP would have got about 90 seats in 2015 but if the votes had been PRed a bit UKIP may have been awarded say half that at 45 seats, which would have been good, and the SNP would have got less. So I wouldn’t totally discount it. And there are other options than just coalitions.
      Balancing out the constituencies isn’t as easy as it sounds as some are spread out over a large areas.

  8. Mix red and blue and you get purple, which is why this colour was chosen for UKIP, along with a dash of gold stolen from the LDs if you like. Any talk of factions within UKIP is media stirring in my view. If you have gone to the trouble of joining UKIP with all the criticism or even abuse that this often entails, it’s pretty clear that you’re serious about wanting to kick the old failed parties into touch and supporting a new radical democratic party. Why revert to old loyalties if you’re so disilusioned and hope for something better?
    It’s true that some members are very weak and wishy-washy, and we’re better off without them. At our last meeting I heard of one or two who’d said they wouldn’t renew because Nigel had called the SNP ‘Nazis’ (in America). I don’t believe he did, actually; as I understand it he described them as ‘Nationalists and Socialists’ which is exactly what they are. What a feeble excuse! If you’re as sensitive as that, go and join the Greens or LDs. Robust language is meat and drink to real Ukippers and those who vote for them.
    On the topic of failed parties, it looks as though Labour is about to do another Michael Foot and vote Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Does anyone know if he is pro- or anti-EU?

  9. Excellent article and should be food for thought from, and for, the NEC across the board to all of the groups, regions and constiuencies of UKIP.
    Those “Don’t blame me I didn’t vote for it” excuses, won’t wash anymore.
    They are a cop out, and irrelevant, to the major changes and disturbances brought about by apathy, absence and being easily led, avoiding the issues because people make excuses for not challenging them.
    Either get involved, support and sustain the effort in getting changes for the better, or hide in a corner, and take what is coming to you ——-and put up with it.

  10. We are a wide church. Where I live the local Tories are more right wing than us and our branch includes people from all former political backgrounds. There are many policy positions that unite us, EU exit is just one, important though it is. We’ll do all we can to win an out vote but whatever the outcome, we’ll still fight on. Sooner or later the EU will implode anyway, the signs are already very clear.

    We are somewhat a “seat of the pants” organisation at regional and even sometimes national level, how could we be otherwise without the funding available to the old parties? We did very well in May anyway and if we can only get a proper democratic system in place, instead of the present sham, we’ll do better still. This, for me runs a fairly close second to EU exit. Both are about democracy.

    At all levels we must now close ranks, dump the few people who clearly regard UKIP mainly as a job opportunity, stop bickering about relatively minor matters and get on with it.

    • Unfortunately, in my opinion too many “people who clearly regard UKIP as a job opportunity” are sitting on the top table, which has resulted in a smothering of democracy in the party as these people clamp down on free speech, in order to appease the media, thereby as they see it, enhancing their political career prospects.

    • ‘Sooner or later the EU will implode anyway, the signs are already very clear.’

      Never underestimate the enemy. If it does implode it will not be before attempting to complete economic and monetary union, for which plans are already in place for treaty change from 2017, and its demise will be very bloody and expensive.

      The EU is very resourceful, has enormous momentum and will fight to the last man and woman.

  11. Bernard from Bucks // July 21, 2015 at 9:51 pm // Reply

    “For starters, much of UKIP’s support comes from those who previously didn’t vote at all.”
    Count me well and truly in this group. I was in the NOTA group before, so I actually did turn up to spoil my paper.
    When UKIP came on the scene – here was something that I believed in, and wanted to fight for – Independence. The secret is in our Party’s name, in case anyone has forgot. I personally don’t want to vote for any ‘new political party’.
    I want out.
    And when, one day, we finally get out, I can go back to supporting NOTA.

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