This article appeared a few weeks ago, but we’ve held it back because its author was standing in the Liberal Youth elections. It is worth sharing, though, because it illustrates accurately the dilemma that UKIP now faces. How does it build a local government base when its councillors are inexperienced, anti politics types who don’t really know who their supporters are.
Robin McGhee is an organiser for the party in Norfolk. He describes the UKIP representatives at the count in Cromer:
Perhaps nine in ten were men, nearly all (very) elderly, and with the same expression of stubborn bafflement as a tortoise who has tripped on its own feet. Such trends in fashion and demographics would be unimportant were it not for their sheer unanimity. We do not yet have comprehensive statistics. But the indication is that the all-too-frequently unvetted Ukip candidates, who hold frequently extreme views, are overwhelmingly of this bucolic and self-parodying variety.
He wondered if they would be up for the day to day reality of life as a councillor:
However, voters will only support an anti-establishment party when it actually works for them to oppose the establishment. At the moment Ukip, put simply, cannot do this. Can its councillors convert their zeal for euroscepticism to writing to council officers with complaints about drains? Will they provide an effective opposition to Conservative councils?
This, he adds, will not come easy:
Ukip is used to not having to form an identity, because it is used to sending elected representatives to the European Parliament, who will automatically have something to protest about for as long as they hold office. But for a party having severe problems with even having national policies, to gain a local identity will be a very difficult struggle.
And there are further complexities which put more obstacles in UKIP’s way.
Ukip supporters did not tell canvassers from the main parties they were voting Ukip. They simply materialised on polling day. This mysterious tendency, like a British Bradley effect, is a migraine for the main parties, but it spells disaster for Ukip. They already need to build a grassroots campaigning mechanism from scratch, without a local record to build on. And they have a voter base who are trenchantly anti-political, making them inevitably much harder to persuade to vote.
The unspoken but is that there are plenty Liberal Democrats with all the necessary skills who can recover the local base lost in the last set of elections in time for 2015.
You can read the whole article here.
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