THE BLOG

Who Would Want Fruit Cakes Running Their Council?

29/04/2013 12:53 BST | Updated 28/06/2013 10:12 BST
Getty Images

Let's get one thing straight. UKIP do not provide a credible alternative in local politics.

As a UK political party who have had success with their anti-European messages at, ironically, a European level in the UK, Nigel Farage's character-driven project is significantly underwhelming when it comes to the diversely challenging area of local politics.

UKIP's recent political polling surge, presiding as an attempt to deliver pluralism into UK politics, translates into very little more than a protest vote in a time of economic downturn, which historically leads to right-wing trending in political polling. This is most clearly demonstrated by the by-election at Eastleigh, which has journalists hot-under-the collars because UKIP achieved a resounding 14%.

The reality is, any by-election exists in a vacuum, providing a vehicle for stronger protest votes than are seen at general elections. When presented with the options of the Coalition parties, a policy-weak Labour Party and other smaller parties which depend almost solely on local grass-roots movements such as the Greens, the voter's sole choice to protest in Eastleigh was UKIP. In contrast, Bradford West demonstrated that the better protest vote was George Galloway's Respect party. Such a result cannot be translated to a wider general election, where the voter would also be considering who would be running the country.

When electing European Parliament MEPs in 2009, members of the British public, sucked into misnomers from tabloid headlines, were keen to support a single-issue parties such as UKIP whom they felt would represent their rights best in that setting. Of course, the irony is,the 11 UKIP MEPs very few actually turn up to represent their constituents views. All the while, of course, absorbing vast amounts of the MEP expenses that Nigel Farage is so quick to criticise.

But, as a single issue party, and personally being pro-pluralism, I suppose UKIP have their place in the European Parliament.

Where they don't have their place is in local politics.

With UKIP candidates in every County Council seat in my local area, the option to vote purple is ever present. In photographs taken by the local paper, representatives are noticeably male and pale and had no history of representing people's views on a local basis.

As if to confirm this, the literature that they have been distributing to every household has a strong anti-European, national theme which does not translate well in terms of local economy, education or public services.

The mock-tabloid is keen to push the message that the EU is destroying jobs in the UK, and immigration is a running theme.

However, their local angle is intent on stopping all public services until every pothole in the county is fixed.

A noble aim, one might say. But the effective translation is that children won't have teachers, traffic lights won't work, the police will not respond to call outs and doctors surgeries will be closed while repair work takes place. It is typical of UKIP messaging, a quixotic short-term fix with no example or understanding of managing budgets, businesses or society as a whole. Much like UKIP anti-European policy, it's a single issue campaign.

To further evidence their lack of experience, understanding and potential are the council positions the UKIP actually hold. Looking through their website, they boast 138 councillors in England. This includes parish, and, in two-tier authorities, district and borough representatives. However, most of these are defections from other major parties and independents. As a councillor, only six had actually been elected.. Even Diane James, of Eastleigh fame, was elected as an independent councillor in her district of Waverley in Surrey. While she now leads the opposition group, a group of three consists of herself and two Conservative defectors. It is up to democracy to decide whether their positions will continue in 2015.

When quizzed, the local UKIP party were unable to produce anything more substantial as the policy and schools other than "putting a grammar school in every town", something that won't answer the overcrowding issues we face on the local level nor assist with the delivery of the Pupil Premium nor maximising classroom assistants to ensure that SEN education is maintained.

Far from being solution-focused politics, UKIP seem only able to criticise, and lack in planning, preparation and delivery of action that will actually benefit society. Their raison d'être remains being anti-European, the majority of which is grounded in fallacies about income and benefits to being a member state.

UKIP provide a range of headline quotes degenerating the EU, applying basic marketing techniques of repeating something in the hope that it might become true. But when it comes to local politics, they seem to have no understanding of the work, process and support that is required in order to be a locally elected councillor. They remain a single issue party who attracts a protest vote at a time when confidence in politics and the economy is poor. But nobody in their right mind would want the party now famous for being referred to as fruitcakes and loonies managing their dustbins, roads, schools or libraries.