Plenty of coverage of the Labour leadership contest in the media – but very little about the UKIP leadership election – which Peter Preston at the Guardian finds rather odd considering
Ukip scored 3,881,099 votes in the 2015 general election. More than the Lib Dems and SNP put together. Its current poll rating, even leaderless in the lee of Theresa, mostly hovers in the 14% region. Last June, at Brexit time, it was five or six points higher than that. Without Ukip, Remain would have won. Editorialists talked obsessively, post-referendum, about the disaffected white legions of the north and Midlands in revolt against London’s elite. Yet where is that newfound extra-metropolitan fascination when Ukip makes its own top choices?
Of course this could be down to the fact that our media gurus, permanently ensconced in their North London bubble have little understanding and even less sympathy with the party and its supporters. Maybe they assume (or hope) that, with Nigel Farage slipping into the background and Brexit won, UKIP will just go away
John Harris, also in the Guardian, has a word of caution for his fellow hacks…
At which point, a few corrective thoughts. First, whatever the state of Ukip’s internal affairs, the state of politics in both Europe and the US suggests that as economies and societies continue to fragment, and the mainstream seems to have no clear answers, the new rightwing populism is going be with us for some time to come.
Second, given that the referendum happened only two months ago, it is worth at least briefly reflecting on the part Ukip played in the outcome. With a solitary MP and a flimsy activist base, it still played a huge role in embedding the connection between most of Britain’s ills and the EU, and thereby carrying its cause from the margins of politics to its very centre. Here is an example of postmodern politics from which people on the left would do well to learn. Moreover, the people responsible are hardly likely to simply disappear.
Which is why it is absolutely essential for the future of UKIP that the next leader should be Diane James. She is the only candidate who has a national media profile, who comes across as cool, calm and collected whenever she is on TV or radio but is also rock solid on core UKIP values – and tough enough to bring some order and discipline into the organisational mess that currently fractures the party (and infuriates the grassroots….)
Remember the Eastleigh by-election when the media were shocked that UKIP came so close to winning A LIB Dem seat that Cameron had hoped to bag for the Tories?
There was a time when Ukip candidates were noted for their flakiness and eccentricity, but James, a healthcare executive and a councillor in Surrey, has come over as mainstream and professional. The Guardian’s John Harris said she was a smart, apparently unflappable operator who you might easily mistake for an A-list Tory candidate
Diane James certainly made an impression on me. For quite a while I had found myself in sympathy with UKIP on many issues but the quality of its leadership cadre before 2013 left much to be desired. Diane changed my perception of the party. As a new member I attended the 2013 party conference and discovered that quite a few other new faces felt the same way. Talking now to ordinary members it appears to me that at the grassroots level she remains very popular.
However there is some evidence that amongst the old guard, the pre 2010 folk, she is perceived by some as “not quite one of us”, rather aloof and unwilling to socialise. Some of these are keyboard warriors who, I suspect, preferred the old days of obscurity and isolation when they could play out their fantasies of worldwide conspiracies far away from the media spotlight.
If you want to go back to those times then Diane James is not your candidate. But if you want UKIP to tack on another 2/3m votes to the 4m of 2015 – and thus break into parliament – then she is the leader who can do it.