Why liberals shouldn’t cheer the death of UKIP too much

It is looking increasingly desperate for UKIP. Despite protestations from Farage to the contrary, UKIP appear to be financially insolvent. Political parties often carry debts higher than the man on the street might think, but UKIP’s problem is that they’ve just been through a series of shambolic incidents that has dented their credibility massively, while it seems that their major donor is none too happy about it all. Why bother to bail UKIP out when you could start something fresh, Arron Banks is almost certainly asking himself.

UKIP’s death isn’t completely certain: Nuttall could become leader, convince Banks of his plan to storm the north, and the financial difficulties would almost certainly be covered as a result. But even if this doesn’t happen and UKIP go down the pan for good, liberals shouldn’t celebrate too much. Because the politics of UKIP survive well and truly even if the party itself dies. And as a result, that energy could go elsewhere – potentially somewhere more politically malevolent.

Banks has talked before about a sort of right-wing, Eurosceptic version of Momentum. Done correctly, with the right people, such a movement could be terrifyingly effective. And if they worked within the Conservative Party just like Momentum works inside of Labour, they could probably (in time) affect their own complete takeover of the Tories (a la the Tea Party and the Republicans). It would have to be done extremely well or it wouldn’t work – but liberals should not discount the possibility of it being done effectively simply because UKIP have always been so badly run.

When Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Mason go on about the power of the man and woman on the street, about how social movements can change the world, they always speak about them in purely positive terms, as if they are in and of themselves unquestionably a good thing. But let me ask you this simple question: in pure mobilisation terms which do you think would be an easier task? Getting a bunch of people behind a pro-immigration, socialist agenda, or getting people to rally around an anti-immigrant, red UKIP style agenda? If I was a betting man, I know where I’d put my money. And before you protest: sit down, think about the EU referendum result, and then answer the question.

All of what I’ve just said is no reason to mourn the loss of UKIP. But just be mindful of what may be on the way if they do totally die out. The politics of UKIP most certainly do not die with the party.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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