Sunday 26 March 2017

Douglas Carswell and the Fall of UKIP

As surprises in politics go, this one's right up there with night following day. In case you've hid in a cave or were too dazzled by the March for Europe's liberal virtue, Douglas Carswell has resigned from the United Kingdom Independence Party. Something of a square peg in a round hole, Carswell's politics are complete crap. They dress an apologia for the megawealthy up in the taffeta of individual autonomy and pearls of hypermodernity. That said, his market fundamentalism doesn't come with extra wrappings of racism and sexism, as per official kipperism, nor the patrician know-all arrogance of his bezzy mate.

In his resignation note, Carswell says that it's "mission accomplished" as far as UKIP are concerned, and so there is little point staying around. Nothing, you understand, to do with his summons before the party's NEC, due to be heard Monday afternoon, on allegations that he derailed a knighthood for Nigel Farage. Indeed, old NF himself on Sophy Ridge this Sunday has pledged to stand against Carswell in Clacton next time. There's little chance of that happening, seeing he's a serial bottler. Still, for those of us who despise UKIP some grim satisfaction can be reaped from their implosion as politics comes to grips with the damage they and their highly placed enabling friends have wreaked.

Carswell's resignation is just the latest in the party's pattern of decline. Some might say it was inevitable, but ask yourself this. Do you think he would have resigned if UKIP were doing much better in the polls, if UKIP were driving the news agenda again, and if UKIP had won in Stoke and therefore sustained the momentum of its pre-general election hay day? Of course he wouldn't have.

As argued many times previously, UKIP properly got legs in the wake of the Equal Marriage row as thousands of "unreconstructed" shire Tories decamped and threw their lot in with the purple party. Because the Conservative Party is in long-term decline - it remains to be seen if Theresa May has permanently reversed its fortunes (I'm guessing not) - UKIP as the repository for their most cranky and backward erstwhile supporters, as well as the flotsam and jetsam of the terrified petit bourgeoisie and lumpenising sections of the working class meant they became something and rose to prominence as a force destined for long-term decline. This was written into their DNA not just because its core support was old, nor that it was getting power from strata that are sinking, as important both these things are, but also because UKIP was fusing together ex-Tories, ex-Labour, and the small but, inside a small party, significant bigoted floating voter tendency. With little in the way of stabilisers from its class base, and a membership united only by anti-Europe and anti-immigration sentiments it was always going to be a volatile affair. And that has more or less been the UKIP story since day one: treason and plot.

Despite congenital instability, UKIP was successful because, eventually, Farage emerged as its undisputed 'charismatic' leader and, this cannot be overstated, the media gave UKIP a massive leg up. As the political establishment were seriously spooked by their ubiquity, the party gained momentum. In 2013 and 2014, it came second wherever a parliamentary by-election took place - coming closest in Eastleigh and Heywood and Middleton. It did very well in those years' local elections too, and they were constantly, ceaselessly talked up by the press and broadcast media as primarily a threat to Labour. However, once momentum was lost, which arguably was the case from the general election on (despite last year's gain in Wales), the wheels rattled loose of the bandwagon. As forecast by Farage himself, failure in Stoke meant an exacerbation of UKIP's crisis. Coming after the unlamented departures of Diane James and Steven Woolfe, so Arron Banks has withdrawn his support and is asking for £200k worth of donations back, there's the European Parliament investigation into alleged UKIP expenses fiddles, and now Carswell. It won't be long before others decamp. For instance, what of Suzanne Evans, who is paid by Carswell to carry his bags?

Had the Brexit vote gone the other way, or had Labour set its face against the result then UKIP would likely be enjoying a new lease of life. The predictions of the London ignorati about the cleaning up in Labour constituencies may have come to pass. But that didn't happen. Carswell reaffirms what I've been arguing for the last two years: the declinist tendency is strongly asserting itself and UKIP is collapsing. Its fall might be noisy, it might attract a bit of media attention, but the ginger group of UKIP's future is beckoning the present to hurry up and be it. And it surely will, until the conditions align again for populist right/fascist-lite politics.


Robert said...

Yay! Let's hope this is the beginning of the end for the purple party.

Anonymous said...

"Because the Conservative Party is in long-term decline - "
It's great to talk such wishful thinking but is it true? I doubt many psephologists would agree with you. Sadly, the Tories have been in power since WW2 far more often than Labour. That seems unlikely to change. The Tories have seen off the threat from the Kippers and Labour now faces slow demolition, given the threat from the LibDems in our post-Brexit future where Clegg's Co has repositioned themselves as the only pro-European mainstream party left.

James Semple said...

There are a lot of intemperate statements of opinion here, but little in the way of closely reasoned argument - which latter we have come to expect from you. I know it is a lot of work keeping up a regular blog, but don't drop your standards.

Phil said...

As the piece draws on well-established arguments here, I'm genuinely mystified by the above.

James Semple said...

Well established? Where was it established that the Conservative Party is in long-term decline? Agreed, there are lots of old Tories due to die soon; but they seem to re ruin lots of new, rich younger bigots from the neoliberalism jungle about us.

I'm no sociologist, so if you are referring to some esoteric professional analysis of political longevity help me out with chapter and verse. If not, where is your evidence?

Phil said...

Well-established arguments here. As in consistently made and consistently argued on this blog.

Ben Philliskirk said...

Phil is right. Just because all the other major parties are currently in the doldrums doesn't mask the fact that the Tories ARE in decline. At the last election they won with only 36.9% of the vote, but that was in itself their highest share since 1992. They held control of major UK cities in the 1960s and 1970s, but are miles away from achieving political dominance in places like Leeds, Manchester or even Bradford now, and in some cases they hardly possess any representation. Once they come to put Brexit into practice their poll ratings will start to come down as well.