The polls open at 7am tomorrow for voters to cast their ballot in the 2015 general election. The insurgent UK Independence Party (UKIP) has turned this election into the most unpredictable contest in decades. Their standing in the polls is uncertain and methodologies are disputed, with ratings ranging from 10 to 18% among the trad pollsters, and as much as 53% in high volume online polls.
Clearly, UKIP supporters are very active online, the party’s Facebook page has more likes than all but the Conservatives, who spend big bucks to buy bucketloads of approval monthly. Leader Nigel Farage has 224,000 twitter followers. This online activity is partly due to the attacks on, and exclusion of UKIP from the mainstream media. Kippers have found their natural medium, where news and views can be formulated by anyone and exchanged in quickfire fashion. It’s what Douglas Carswell refers to as iDemocracy.
This has had a beneficial effect on UKIP, not solely in terms of visibility, but also in terms of shaping policy direction. Memes rapidly emerge, and good ideas are noted by the party’s leadership for inclusion into policy discussion. This makes the party internally meritocratic; ordinary party members can be heard by senior party officials.
As well as individuals being heard, the general direction of travel of the will of the membership-massive is clearer, and the shifts in policy emphasis and content over the last year reflect this. It’s no accident that during April, the number of 2010 Labour voters expressing support for UKIP rose as a percentage of party supporters from 7 to 19%. No doubt part of this shift is due to some 2010 conservative voters drifting back to their old voting habits in fear of letting in a Lab/SNP alliance, but it also puts the lie to the media stereotyping of UKIP as a party of ex-conservatives, who in fact made up less than a third of the voters who elected Mark Reckless in the Rochester and Strood by-election.
UKIP is growing and has successfully developed a mature policy offering distinct from the old parties, but not through being extreme. Somehow the party is capturing the centre ground whilst retaining a lot more radical potential than the LibDems. Reading the UKIP manifesto is like a breath of fresh air, and I highly recommend it to Talkshop readers, even those outside the UK. The party is already influential too, look at how many UKIP policies have been adopted by the other parties already, in an attempt to retain the voters who are switching to the insurgent party.
UK Talkshop readers will have decided who they will vote for already, and this isn’t an attempt to canvass additional support at the eleventh hour. UKIP will exceed expectations tomorrow, as they have at the last five by-elections, and the European and local Elections last year. I’m so confident we’ll beat the national pollsters
predictions ‘snapshots’ that I’ve done something I very occasionally do, which is bet on the outcome of an certain proposition. When UKIP get significantly more than 15% of the national vote, I will have enough cash to buy my fellow branch members a drink or two at our after-count party on Friday. We will win seats on Leeds City Council tomorrow. Whether the one I’m standing for in addition to standing as the parliamentary candidate will be one of them remains to be seen.
Our country desperately needs real change in the makeup of its political leadership. A narrow clique has developed which contains too many old school chums who all did the same degree in politics, philosophy and economics. There are too many millionaire lawyers and leeches on the front benches. To solve the problems the UK faces, we need engineers and doctors, policemen and women, people with more real life experience outside the Westminster bubble. Tomorrow presents the opportunity to make it so.