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.