The Resistable Rise of Nigel Farage

Book Review of ‘UKIP: Inside the campaign to redraw the map of British Politics’-M. Goodwin &  C. Milazzo, Oxford University Press, 2015

UKIP has come within an ace of reshaping British politics in a way that few people have yet to digest.  Although the elections of 2015 have felt by many people to have been the high water mark of their insurgency as this book demonstrates that is largely because of the electoral system rather than the support they attract.   Because they have not been able to gain support in concentrated geogrraphical areas, as the SNP has, they have only 1 seat in Parliament but over 4 million people voted for them in the general election of 2015 – and we ignore that at our peril.  Not least as the anti-European, anti-immigrant politics will get another outing during the referendum campaign of 2016.

This is a serious book but there are laugh out loud moments, at least one per chapter. How I’ve laughed at UKIP’s inability to mount a modern electoral campaign, fill forms in properly and the candidates who have lost all sense of perspective as they expect to sweep all before them. But that laughter is choked off when as the analysis in the book starts to explain just why UKIP are so successful and how they are lodged now in British society, as well as its polity.

Goodwin and Milazzo demonstrate convincingly that UKIP are the representatives of those who have been left behind.  Economically, socially and culturally these people feel they have do not find the country they are part of is something they can, or want, to recognise. Economically we are talking about the unskilled, poorly educated older baby boomers who didn’t get that breaks that many of their generation did — and are not happy about it.  Socially, and this point is less well made in the analysis, these are people bereft of the social support traditional working class communities would have offered them, so feel marginal and isolated.  Culturally, and the book is very strong here, these are the socially conservative who don’t like the cosmopolitanism that much of the contemporary UK has not only embraced but is not tolerant towards dissent from.

With impressive insider access to the major players in UKIP and a wide sweep of polling data the book presents a powerful account of an insurgent political party.  It demonstrates in part that in spite of UKIP at times being not very organised, not very acute, it has made huge inroads. Through a combination of very sophisticated analysis and a visceral feel for its key constituency UKIP has found the hollowed out heart of British politics and lodged itself there.  The latter parts of the book demonstrate why the 2015 general election was too tough a challenge, as well as the role of Farage as figure who motivates voters – either towards UKIP or away from them.  The detailed polling and evidence also clearly demonstrates that it is The Labour Party which has most to fear from UKIP in the run up to the General Election 2020.

I hope that this book makes it to paperback in time for the referendum but if you are seriously interested in understanding why UKIP its Euroscepticism and anti-immigration populism has become part of the British politics read it now.


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