UKIP: ‘We can replace Labour in five years’

Handover: Paul Nuttall (left) faces the challenge of emerging from Nigel Farage’s shadow. © PA

Yesterday was Paul Nuttall’s first day as leader of UKIP. He says he wants to replace Labour, and many of the political pundits reckon he has a chance. But how much of a chance, really?

Paul Nuttall used to be a humble history lecturer. Last night as he read the papers over a pint of Guinness he was Nigel Farage’s replacement as leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

He may well have felt a rush of blood to the head. Many political experts are predicting that UKIP might, just might, be a major player on the political scene for years to come.

After all, they say, UKIP has already forced the Brexit vote. Now Nuttall wants to capitalise on dwindling support for Labour in its socially conservative heartlands. In much of the north of England and Midlands, he believes UKIP ‘can become the patriotic party of the working people’.

That could have profound consequences. If one in five Labour voters defected in these areas, the party would lose 32 seats it once considered safe. Jeremy Corbyn could lead the party of the British left to electoral irrelevance. UKIP could plausibly mirror the surge the Scottish National Party enjoyed in Scotland at the 2015 general election.

But UKIP faces challenges. There has been farcical infighting between its libertarian and nationalist wings for many months. Its last leader was in position for just 18 days, and one of its MEPs was hospitalised after a brawl in the European Parliament.

It must also prove it is more than a one-man band, after the departure of its charismatic leader Nigel Farage. And an increasingly assertive Conservative party is threatening to steal much of its pitch.

Nuttall also believes there is a demand for more Englishness. ‘You’re seeing a rise in English patriotism now. You’re seeing more St George’s crosses than ever before. It’s as if the flag has been reclaimed from football hooliganism and the far right’.

Flash in the pan

UKIP can cause seismic change, say some. It will appeal to Brexit voters who feel the Conservatives are too soft. Labour is out of touch on issues such as crime and immigration and preoccupied with, as Nuttall said, ‘dinner party’ discussions. And, as Donald Trump’s election showed, anything is now possible on the radical right of Western politics.

It will not last, others respond. It only succeeded as a hobby horse for the egotistical Farage. Nationalists can blame outsiders, but not solve problems. After the Brexit vote UKIP’s only option is to run further to the right, which will put off most voters. It faces the fate of most small parties: division and failure as voters revert to the status quo.

You Decide

  1. Would you consider voting for UKIP?
  2. Are nationalist parties inevitably doomed to fail?

Activities

  1. Write five interview questions you would like to ask Paul Nuttall, the new UKIP leader. Discuss in groups what the best questions would be and how he might respond to them.
  2. Think ahead to the 2020 general election in the UK. Write a 500-word newspaper article dated the day after it, laying out how well you think UKIP might have done and why.

Some People Say...

“People now are beginning to feel English in a way that they haven’t done for probably 200 years.”

Paul Nuttall, Leader, UKIP

What do you think?

Q & A

I will never vote for UKIP, and they are only a small party. Why does their leader matter?
UKIP have been a very significant force in British politics in recent years. They only have one MP but they gained 3.8m votes at the 2015 general election. This means their message is resonating with a lot of people. Even if you would never vote for them, it is important to be aware of why that is, what it might mean and how politicians you support may react.
But I’m not even British.
The surge of support for UKIP in recent years has been mirrored elsewhere too. UKIP can even claim a small part in Donald Trump’s election: Trump repeatedly referred to Brexit as an inspiration for his supporters. And nationalist politicians could cause several more upsets, especially in Europe, in the next 12 months.

Word Watch

Nuttall
He has served as Farage’s deputy since 2010. He played youth football for Tranmere Rovers.
Forced
David Cameron promised a referendum as prime minister in 2013, while under pressure from UKIP’s rise in the polls. In 2014 UKIP got the most votes in the European elections. UKIP campaigned vociferously for Leave in the referendum.
Brexit
Since it was founded in 1993, UKIP has had one main purpose: to get Britain out of the EU.
Labour
Nuttall calls Labour’s leaders an ‘Islington set’ and says he will focus on immigration, crime, defence and foreign aid to gain their voters’ support.
Leader
Diane James was elected but soon resigned, saying she lacked the authority to continue.
MEPs
Members of the European Parliament.
Farage
He became leader in 2006, though he briefly resigned twice. He presided over a major upturn in UKIP’s fortunes and campaigned for Brexit. He also campaigned alongside Donald Trump.
Assertive
Since the EU referendum the Conservatives have appealed to UKIP voters, for example by taking a tough public line on immigration and pledging to lift a ban on grammar schools.

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