Great going Chris!
The results of the 2014 European elections demonstrate clearly that UKIP can indeed win a national election. Many claim that this cannot be translated into 2015 General Election success due to the nature of the British voting system. However, this short paper will argue that the electoral system can be made to serve UKIP’s to the detriment of the establishment parties. This is based on 3 key facts:
- UKIPs apparent disadvantage is based on perception rather than reality.
- The three establishment parties are so similar they are nothing more than factions of a single Establishment party
- The Establishment vote is split three ways while the UKIP vote is unified
The key to success in 2015 will be based on changing perceptions by demonstrating a two horse race and a three way split. The system cannot be changed but the way people think about it can and it is this that can make all the difference.
A question of perception
The 2014 poll demonstrated that in terms of percentages more people in the UK sympathised with UKIP than with any other political party. This is reality, the only reason this is not translated into General Election success is because people perceive UKIP defeat under the system as inevitable. As such they believe a vote for UKIP is a wasted vote. This creates a self-fulfilling prophesy that Establishment relies on to maintain its grip on power.
The 2014 election has gone some way to changing perceptions – people now know that UKIP can win a national election. UKIP’s percentage of the vote is a reality; the supposed disadvantage of First Past the Post is only a perception. Over the next 12 months UKIP needs to change the way the public thinks about First Past the Post and get them to practice conviction politics. This can be achieved by giving them a simple choice between two options.
Two Horse Race: Establishment versus UKIP
The key to UKIP’s success in 2015 will be to present the contest as a two horse race, a race involving two parties – the Establishment Party and the anti-Establishment UKIP. If the public can be convinced that the three other “parties” are in reality three factions of a single establishment party then First Past the Post can work dramatically in UKIP’s favour. Past experience suggests that it makes no difference which Establishment faction(s)form a government. A vote for either of them is a vote for establishment interests and a policy of “more of the same”. In 1997 people were voting for change, they thought that by voting for the Labour Party they would get that change – they didn’t! Past is prologue.
The European Union is a central pillar of establishment thinking and it is inconceivable that anyone who has been allowed to rise to the top of an establishment party will be able to facilitate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. In November 2009 David Cameron repudiated his previous “cast iron guarantee” to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty after “persuasion” from European establishment grandees. How can we trust Mr. Cameron’s supposed commitment for an in-out referendum on EU membership by 2017 after such a dramatic change of policy? The likely reason for putting off a referendum to 2017 is to give the Establishment more time to subvert the popular will. Whatever their rhetoric the establishment parties will never give up on the EU because it is so central to the interests of those who run and control them.