Ukip is back thanks to the Chequers backlash

Ukip is back thanks to the Chequers backlash, by Matthew Goodwin.

The UK Independence Party might be about to make a comeback. Ever since Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit, which went down very badly indeed among grassroots Conservatives and Leavers, the opinion polls have been kind to the Purple Army.

The week after the Chequers deal went public, one pollster found support for the party had surged by five points to 8 per cent. It might not sound like much, but it is its best showing since March last year. …

More recent polls suggest that nearly 40 per cent of all voters would be open to supporting a new party that was firmly committed to Brexit (which surges to 67 per cent of Conservative voters), while 24 per cent would support an explicitly far-right, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamism party, which should sound a warning note. …

None of this has escaped the attention of Nigel Farage, who stepped down as Ukip’s leader in July 2016 but who is clearly mulling a possible return to the ring. …

Nigel Farage

The populist Sweden Democrats (who want a Swexit) just reached no. 1 in the polls; the populist Alternative for Germany are no. 2; the populist Northern League and Five Star are running Italy; the populist Freedom Party is in a coalition in Austria; Slovenia has lurched right; and more than six in ten Hungarians are backing Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz or the formerly neo-fascist Jobbik. If this is a Europe where populism is in full retreat, then I would hate to see the alternative. …

It would be a mistake to view Ukip’s recent recovery solely as a result of the Tory fallout. Also important is how a handful of prominent right-wing social media activists, who typically eschew party politics, have called on their (hundreds of thousands of) followers to enrol in Ukip. Paul Joseph Watson might be an unfamiliar name to readers but he has amassed around 882,000 followers on Twitter by attacking political correctness, Islam, refugees, identity liberalism and what he and his audience argue is excessive virtue signalling across the West.

Figures such as Watson, as well as Raheem Kassam — Nigel Farage’s former chief of staff and a close ally of Steve Bannon — are linked to an increasingly international campaign to support the jailed Tommy Robinson, ex-leader of the English Defence League. His supporters argue that he has been silenced from reporting on ‘grooming gangs’ and other Islam-related topics due to political correctness and a clampdown on free speech (Robinson was actually imprisoned for contempt of court.) …

In the shadow of the Brexiteers’ historic triumph, the party seemed destined for the political graveyard. …

One of the unwritten laws in politics is that challenger parties don’t last long. Either their clothes are stolen by the mainstream, they implode amid infighting, or the political debate simply moves on. It was their short lifespan that led the historian Richard Hofstadter to observe more than half a century ago that challengers are like bees: once they have stung, they die. But in Britain this unwritten law could be about to be tested.

hat-tip Stephen Neil