On paper, it seems like a winner. The Labour Party is stuffed full of metropolitan luvvies, and practically the entire media (and not a few Labour MPs) have gone out of its way to portray northerners as knuckle scraping racists hostile to such things. The election of Jeremy Corbyn is further grist to the UKIP mill, widening the chasm between the party and its core support. Or so the story goes. The problem for Nuttall's turn to the class and his excitable soi disant critics in liberal opinion is this is nothing at all new. This has been UKIP strategy since 1999, and they doubled down on it after hitting the big time. It has brought them some modest success, and has seen them take a council seat here and there from Labour. But their main accomplishment is to have displaced the other parties as the choice of non-Labour voting sections of the working class in safe Labour areas. This Parliament's Ogmore, Sheffield Brightside, and Oldham by-elections typify this trend. Labour hold on, if not handsomely increase its vote, and UKIP batter everyone else and come a distant second. The bulk of working class voters remain resistant to their garish colours and garish politics, as the ballot box demonstrates.
It follows on that if this was the case under Nigel Farage, why does anyone think Nuttall could do better? It took Farage almost 15 years of friendly press before he became a household name. Despite top billing on this evening's news, Nuttall is far cry from the same recognition. As far as the public at large are concerned, including those who give UKIP a punt, he's as well known to them as second rank shadow cabinet members. He's right up there with Tim Farron and Angus Robertson. Nuttall, as noted previously, is mostly competent in front of the cameras. I say mostly, as he has let his affection for Putin show, but the man is also a charisma-free zone. Farage's strength lay in his gaffer-like relatability for the UKIP target vote of middle aged men. What has Nuttall got? The patronising idiocy that he'd go down well with working class voters because he speaks with a Scouse accent is just that. Another thing worth noting, there are plenty of northern working folk for whom the accent grates too. Marry that to a personal image bound up with fascist bovver boys, and hey presto, UKIP have hit upon a formula no more attractive to working class people than the former Tory voters in the shires.
The further problem Nuttall faces is the resurgent Liberal Democrats. Not the biggest threat to UKIP, one would think. And yet they previously did well out of the collapsing LibDems. As previous owners of the none-of-the-above vote, that persistent brigade of anti-establishment politics voters switched their allegiance to the kippers while Clegg and friends made nice with the Tories. And now, well, by-elections up and down the country are finding that vote is dispersing back to the LibDems and, to a lesser extent, Labour. Politics is a funny old game, and Nuttall hasn't even recognised his party's bleed in this direction, let alone have a strategy for addressing it.
This is not a counsel for complacency, though. UKIP's electoral potential is limited, but as we know their indulgence by the media and politicians in our party and over on the government benches has had calamitous consequences. The way to beat them is not to cleave to their specious arguments and BNP-style scapegoating, but to take them on, street-by-street, and door-by-door. Our job is not to enable the enemies of working people by surrendering political ground to them, otherwise what's the bloody point?