As you may know, I am a supporter of the UK Independence Party (a right-winged party that would like to see the UK leave the European Union). All over Europe we’re about to hold elections to the European Parliament between the 22nd and the 25th. The UK votes today the 22nd, while Sweden and most other countries wait until the 25th.
The European Parliament is the European Union’s parliament – it doesn’t have much in terms of real power, but the elections still give people a chance to express which way they want Europe to go. The parties running in the EP elections are different for each country, and they are (for the most part) the same parties that run in the national elections in the different countries.
The UK Independence Party – UKIP for short – has long been predicted to win the EP election in the UK. This is remarkable as the party holds no seats in the House of Commons – the UK equivalent of the US Congress – and received only 3.5 % of the vote in the last national election. The next election is scheduled for May 2015, and a victory in these elections could give UKIP more credibility and finally allow them – us – to win seats in the UK parliament, which would be a breakthrough.
However, UKIP has had a very bad finish to the campaign. After leading most of the polls for two months, UKIP has made a number of mistakes in the past couple of weeks that could prove absolutely fatal. To recap:
1) UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage claimed that he would feel uncomfortable if a bunch of Romanians moved in next door, while he wouldn’t feel that way if they were german. Of course, he explained himself later saying that the reason had to do with the high crime rate among Romanians (a factually correct statement) – but the damage was done. Farage is usually extremely disciplined – he’s one of few UKIPpers who usually manage to get through a press conference without embarrassing himself – we’ll get to that later – but he’s clearly tired after a long campaign.
2) A UKIP local council candidate (there are local elections held as well today) wrote in a letter to voters that he wanted to hang the leaders of the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties (the UK establishment parties) and try their voters for treason! The media, needless to say, had a field day with that statement.
3) Another local council candidate suggested that shooting one homosexual would turn the rest of them straight.
4) And yet another candidate said it was a mistake to extend the right to vote to women and members of the middle class.
5) There is a by-election to be held in the Newark constituency on June 5 (this is for the UK’s own parliament), and UKIP of course sees a golden opportunity to finally get its first MP now instead of having to wait until next year’s national election. However, the candidate they have chosen to nominate is so bad I wish they had just stayed out of it – he is mostly known for saying that rape victims have to share the blame with the rapist and similar outrageous statements. UKIP claims it’s the best candidate they got from that area of the country, but if that really is the case, then they should have just given it a pass and waited for the next opportunity.
If you haven’t gotten it yet, here’s my point: UKIP needs better candidates.
Or, rather: UKIP needs to stop contesting every single darn election! If we can’t find a competetent candidate to run in a district, then we shouldn’t run in that district! A nutjob candidate, even if he’s running in a local election, can cause damage that will hurt them on a national scale.
UKIP is currently planning to run candidates in every single constituency (think; congressional district). That’s 650 seats candidates from all over the country – and if one of them says something incredibly stupid, their chances could go down in flames. It is one thing to win the EP election – most voters don’t take it very seriously and so often use the opportunity to cast a “protest vote”. The polls have been tightening in the past week or two because of these mistakes, but UKIP is still ahead and I believe they will pull it off in the end. The problem is that this may fool the party into believing that running these kinds of candidates won’t hurt them in a general election. While I support UKIP, I almost hope they’ll finish second today just because it may provide the necessary wake-up all to the party leadership.
Otherwise, they’ll end up in what I like to call the Tea Party trap.
This is when a political movement decides to allow anyone who agrees with its goals to represent them in elections. It is more important for the movement that it can appear to be a nationwide, “huge” movement – which it gives the appearance of being when it runs candidates everywhere – than that its candidates are actually qualified to do the job they are running for and able to win the election necessary to get it.
This can also stem from a desire not to appear “elitist” like the loathed establishment. After all, who’s to say that a guy with no political experience with a history of heavy drug use who believes that aliens destroyed World Trade Centre isn’t fit for elected office? The voters, that’s who.
What UKIP ought to do is to first of all skip the local elections altogether – it’s a eurosceptic party and it cannot achieve an exit from the EU or stop any pro-EU legislation in a local council. They’re an unnecessary risk and a huge waste of money.
Secondly, UKIP must refrain from the temptation to run candidates in every constituency in next year’s national election. Listen up guys, I’m trying to help you: There isn’t a qualified UKIPper in every constituency, and there may not be 650 qualified UKIPpers in the entire party. By qualified, I mean able to perform the job and win the election.
So which constituencies should UKIP run in? First of all, let’s cross Scotland off the list. Northern Ireland is off too. Really, UKIP should run in England only and focus on the industrial areas in the northeast.
And, UKIP needs to swallow its pride and make a deal with the Tories (the main established party that UKIP is stealing votes from) – UKIP won’t run candidates in any constituencies except 10-20, and in those constituencies the Tories won’t run a candidate. If elected, the Tories will then deliver on their promise of an In/out referendum by 2017.
I know many UKIPpers are asking, “How do we know we can trust the Tories?” – maybe you can’t know for certain. But under no circumstances will you get more seats than you can get by co-operating with them, and so how trustworthy they are is only of academic interest really.
Otherwise you’ll end your days like the Tea Party in the US: Great goals, but poor representatives which ensures you won’t win anything in the long run. You may still win when people need a party to that they can “protest vote” for, but that’s it – and that sums up the Tea Party perfectly: They got millions of protest votes in the 2010 midterms, and so they continued to ignore the qualifications and electability of the candidates they supported, and now they are more or less wiped out. All their unserious candidates – Christine O’Donnell, Ted Cruz etc – came back to haunt them even if it took a few years.
I and many others warned about this for years before it happened. And now that it has, I don’t think anything can save the Tea Party to be honest. Therefore, the next Republican presidential nominee is likely to be Jeb Bush or another establishment-approved candidate.
UKIP must not end that way. If it wants to be a national party, it must first stop running candidates all over the nation as absurd as that seems. UKIP has great potential, even greater than the Tea Party had. I pray that they won’t waste it the way the Tea Party did. That would truly be a tragedy, not just for UKIP or the UK, but for the entire continent of Europe.
Thank you for reading.