What are we going to do about Ukip?

EU09UKIP1.pngWhat are we going to do about UKIP? It is clear that there is strong support for the ‘anti-Europe’ sentiment in most areas in our country. I live in a relatively safe Labour area in Leeds and UKIP increased their vote share (of those who actually voted) by more than 20% for the local elections, and got three of the six seats up for grabs in Europe. I think this is quite worrying, but if we are going to win the next general election we need to have a clear positive agenda.

 If we allow UKIP to dictate the narrative of the conversation and approach the problem by responding with negativity towards UKIP we will appear to be the same as the coalition Government. This is already happening; I have seen a few leaflets with titles such as ‘the truth about UKIP’. While I agree that we need to point out their policies are horrendous, I fear that this just plays into UKIP’s hands and gives them publicity. This is because part of UKIP’s appeal is that they sell themselves as an alternative, while tarring us with the same brush as the coalition Government – aka ‘the establishment’. But we’re not the same! 

Instead of negativity, I think we need to put forward a viable alternative, Stephen Beer put it very well in his article from last week: “we need a clear, progressive, and hopeful message at the national level.” This will be clearly different to UKIP’s, but also needs to be distinctly different when compared with the other parties, both in tone and content. The tone of what we say is so important if we want voters to buy-in to our agenda. 

I am not saying we should ignore the Europe and immigration issues. There are clearly lots of people who are worried aboutpage10ukip_2435546b.jpg the changes to the make-up of their communities, which does not make them racist or even xenophobic, just uncomfortable with change – which is a very human condition! Instead, we need to talk about these issues on our terms, recognising the rate of change in some areas is too fast, but emphasise the value that Europe and immigration have had on our economy and culture.  I also think we need to be clear about our responsibility to offer asylum to those people who come to our country because of dire situations in their own countries. 

Another clear issue highlighted by the recent elections was voter apathy. In the local elections, in my ward in Leeds, of the 14,919 people registered to vote, 4,264 people voted. That is 28.6%. Obviously that excludes the people who are eligible to vote, but not registered. To my surprise, a friend of mine who is politically engaged and very intelligent went to the polling station to find he wasn’t registered to vote. If that is indicative of potential voters, then voter turn-out is even lower than I’ve just suggested! 

A large part of voter apathy has to be down to the perception that ‘they’re all the same’. I find this view quite difficult to understand, but while campaigning for Labour for the last set of elections, it was a common theme. One of the interesting features of the results, at least in my ward, was that the number of people who voted increased by 416 people (doesn’t sound like much, it is a big proportion of people who actually voted). This suggests to me that the UKIP distinctive message increased voter turn-out for the local elections (possibly helped by the fact that there were European elections at the same time). I think this suggests that having a clear, distinctive agenda will encourage people to vote. If it is positive as well, that can only increase the impact.

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commented 2014-06-13 16:42:13 +0100 · Flag
What concerns me is Labour’s apparently deliberate failure to distinguish itself from the Tories on Europe. Since Cameron’s policy is driven by the fear of being outflanked, it means Labour has effectively handed over control of European policy to the Eurosceptic right, including UKIP. Quite apart from this being completely the wrong policy, It cannot bring us any benefit as voters wishing to make a point about Europe will be able more reliably to get what they want elsewhere.
commented 2014-06-06 21:54:43 +0100 · Flag
I stood as a local Labour candidate in Rotherham. I was not elected and the public re-elected a UKIP councillor. Seven Labour Councillors lost their seats to UKIP.
The one issues spoken to me on the door step was immigration and Labour don’t listen.
We put out some leaflets that were anti UKIP. I am not sure what impact they had and there needs to be some research to fully determine there effectiveness or not.

The media has defiantly played a large role highlighting immigration from Eastern Europe. For a minor party UKIP have had a lot of free publicity. This free publicity seems to have created an air of fear that has been generated against Eastern European immigration.

I agree immigration needs to be controlled but I am concerned about the impact of the rise in popularity of UKIP and the effect this will have in encouraging racist activist, who want to preach intolerance and fear.

There are many Labour voters who are alarmed at the rising popularity of UKIP. We should be encouraging these voters to join Labour and to become active.