Emily Maitlis: For months, we have heard little from Ukip, the party who were victorious last time European Elections were fought. Like the other major parties, it too has seen splits and divisions. It has lost support and, perhaps most crucially, it lost Nigel Farage, the man who made it what it was. He's started his own Brexit Party called - you guessed it - the Brexit Party. So how will it fare against Ukip, and how much of the Leave vote could either - or both - of these parties hoover up if we do contest those European elections? Here's Katie Razzall. And a warning, her piece does contain some flashing images from the start.
Katie Razzall: For many it was Ukip under Nigel Farage that brought us the referendum and Brexit itself. Now his old party has a different leader and some new friends:
Tommy Robinson: If you are looking for an answer, it certainly is not the establishment. In my own personal opinion, it's Gerard Batten.
Farage has left. He's set up a new party, the Brexit Party. With many Leave voters now feeling betrayed by the main parties, who might they trust to represent their views? Ukip, or the man who encapsulated it? The recent Welsh by-election may offer an insight. The Ukip candidate was determined to make Newport West all about Brexit. His party didn't make the double-figure gains it used to at its height. But its vote did go up more than 6%.
Neil Hamilton AM: After the referendum I think a lot of people thought Ukip's job was done. It's now perfectly evident that Ukip's job was not completed by getting the referendum result. So it tells us that Ukip's show is back on the rails and we will make progress from there.
This is why many people including Nigel Farage, think Ukip has changed. Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, sponsored Ukip's Make Brexit Happen rally in London on the day Britain was due to leave the EU. Ukip's leader Gerard Batten has appointed the controversial former founder of the English Defence League as an adviser. Mr Batten appears focused on an anti-Islam agenda. MEPs have left the party as a result. So too have two Ukip representatives in the Welsh Assembly.
Caroline Jones AM: The party changed beyond all recognition. I saw marches in London with Gerard Batten and so on which I was quite uncomfortable with. I have some Muslim friends and so on and I felt that it was becoming more like the BNP under his leadership. So I really wanted to distance myself.
Neil Hamilton AM: Well, there has been no lurch anywhere, left or right, and Ukip is in the same position that it has always been. Our policy has not changed...
Katie Razzall: (interrupting Neil Hamilton) You associate with the likes of Tommy Robinson.
Neil Hamilton AM: Well, Tommy Robinson is not a member of Ukip and can't be a member of Ukip because our party rules proscribe him on account of the organisation...
Katie Razzall: (interrupting Neil Hamilton): He sponsors rallies on behalf of Ukip.
Neil Hamilton AM: If I can just finish the answer. Our party rules proscribe him from membership by virtue of his past associations.
But back to the European elections. In Wales, if Newport West is anything to go by, Labour is for now holding on to enough of its Brexiter votes. But what of Conservative areas where Leave won out in 2016? Ukip's fortunes in Wiltshire mirror what's gone on across much of the country. Party support peaked here as pressure mounted ahead of the referendum. But once the country had voted to leave, it fell off dramatically and in 2017 at the last general election, voters returned to the two main parties. It's fertile ground for a resurgent Ukip, you might think. Patrick Duffy was chairman of South West Wiltshire Conservatives until very recently. He is disgusted by what he sees as his party's betrayal over Brexit and is thinking of leaving:
Patrick Duffy: I'd very seriously consider my position in the party, if this goes the wrong way. I will feel not only very let down by what the party has done but by I'm afraid what I see is our failure to have negotiated it properly from the outset. If none of them are able to deliver the results of the referendum, I will be looking for a party who can deliver the result of the referendum. And if that means going down the route of supporting a party who have a single aim, then that is something I would certainly consider doing.
Katie Razzall: (to Patrick Duffy) So would that be the Brexit Party or would that be Ukip?
Patrick Duffy: Given the choice of the two, it would probably be the Brexit Party.
Katie Razzall: (to Patrick Duffy) Why is that?
Patrick Duffy: I think for me there is now too much association with Ukip that for me, I feel uncomfortable with.
This is how Leave voters told YouGov they would vote in one recent poll if there were a general election. It suggests about half would vote Conservative and 14% Labour. But this single poll indicates a quarter of Brexiters claim they would now opt for either Ukip or Farage's Brexit Party.
Chris Curtis, YouGov: Who is going to become the dominant force? At the moment in voting intention polls they are fairly level. Is one of them going to take the lead? Are they going to become the dominant voice of those who want a harder Brexit? And if so, are they going to able to avoid the other party from splitting their vote share? And I think if they can do that, if they can pull that off successfully, if there is a dominant force that comes out of that, I think they are highly likely to end up winning the European Parliament elections.
So which hard Brexit faction, if any, will win out? Nigel Farage has made a career out of being an insurgent. And his old party has alienated some of its former supporters. But unlike the Brexit Party, Ukip has name recognition and membership that is used to fighting elections, and that can count for a lot.
The narrative here is clear "We want UKIP to disappear. We will big up The Brexit Party in order to do so. We will ignore any evidence that UKIP is doing better than expected, until the final para of the script in true BBC fashion."ReplyDelete
What a brilliant opening from Emily Maitlis: "For months, we have heard little from Ukip..." Very true, Newsnight!! Could that be because you have been keeping Gerard Batten in particular and UKIP off our screens as a matter of deliberate policy? He's been appearing of plenty of other channels - even the BBC News channel for a few minutes, mid-afternoon(so the BBC has some deniability cover for a ban). Odd that while they have been analysing the Brexit situation virtually every night they have not seen fit to invite UKIP on to offer their view at any point.
Then it was straight into smear territory. Neil Hamilton v. short section of interview was edited to provide a very vague sort of rebuttal. But it didn't seem like they had gone to UKIP officially for a response to the BNP-Far Right smears (because when they do and don't get a response they normally say so).
They made it sound as though Nigel Farage had been leader and then succeeded by Batten - missing out the intervening chaos of two poor leaders backed by Farage. The point was that Farage resigned and essentially abandoned UKIP to pursue a media career. The abandonment preceded the disillusionment with UKIP policy on Islam.
They didn't say what TR was advising GB about (grooming gangs). They represented Batten and UKIP being obsessed with Islam to the exclusion of all else. I have seen no evidence for that. They have a full range of policies and are mostly focussed on Brexit at the moment. UKIP are different from other parties in saying that the core Sharia ideology of Islam is a threat to our society (something the Government secretly acknowledges internally but will never admit openly). But that is something that can be rationally defended.
The programme was careful not to mention that UKIP is currently polling a healthy 8% or 9% in General Election polls - higher than the Lib Dems, or SNP or Greens.