Doomed: Nigel Farage, UKIP and the Battle for Brussels

It's all about UKIP. It always has been. They've made a routinely uneventful and uninspiring process the political event to watch. Thanks to them, this year's European election cycle will be the most exciting, or the least boring, ever.

It's all about Ukip. It always has been. They've made a routinely uneventful and uninspiring process the political event to watch. Thanks to them, this year's European election cycle will be the most exciting, or the least boring, ever.

It's undeniable; we love Ukip. We love their barmy antics. We love ridiculing their faux-pas'. We love Nigel Farage. Or we love to loathe him. Right now, he is cresting a wave of confidence. He believes his party will come out on top. They can smell victory. The bookies concur, placing Ukip as favourites to top the polls with up to 4.5million votes or 25-30% of the entire vote.

So what does this mean for UK politics? Is the tide turning for the 'big' parties? Do we dare think that Ukip success this May could lead to Ukip success in next May's UK general election? Should we now consider these 'fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists' as one of the 'mainstream' parties?


Absolutely not.

Ukip probably will do well in the European election. They will take seats off the big parties. The Lib Dems will be trounced. The Tories and Labour could be weakened. The BNP will be wiped off the face of national politics. Ukip will return a large number of MEPs to Brussels.

Don't start applying for asylum elsewhere just yet. We already know that victory for Ukip will have a meaningless impact on the European Union (see video below).

A Ukip victory will also have little influence on the 2015 UK General Election. Inevitably, politicos and the media will over-analyse the 2014 euro results to make predictions about who will plateau or plummet in 2015. Don't read too much into this; European elections are an extremely poor predictor for national contests.

They are fundamentally different elections. The general election is first-past-the-post and the euro election uses proportional representation. Voter turnout is also completely different. At the 2009 European election, it was an abysmal 34.7%, despite the European Parliament having more powers than ever. At the 2010 general election, it was 65.8%.

Low turnout stems from a lack of interest. No-one really votes because no-one really cares. It may be slightly boosted this year if coinciding UK local elections push more to the polls, but generally, only those who really care about the EU vote in European elections: the eurosceptics.

Now don't be fooled into thinking that euroscepticism is as popular as reported. It isn't. It just makes sexy news stories and Nigel Farage's brand of oratory is a headline-makers dream. Relative to the entire UK population, eurosceptics are actually a small section of society. They are only able to punch above their weight in the European election cycle because they are over-represented in the European electorate.

It's easy for eurosceptic parties to mobilise supporters for the European elections. Ukip voters are more likely to go to the polls than any other party. It's their priority. They are a single-issue party and that single-issue is euroscepticism. Their entire party is built around an anti-EU message. While most Brits are EU-agnostic and don't care enough to go to a polling station, eurosceptics do. They care a great deal. It's their 'raison d'etre. It's their World Cup final, not their Eurovision song contest.

Concurrently, some voters will vote UKIP at a European election but not nationally. Around a quarter of voters will choose different parties in 2014 and 2015. That's because European elections attract protest voters who choose smaller parties. This reflects that European elections are 'second order elections' where votes are cast not for competent candidates, but to send a message to national politicians or the incumbent government. Consequently, eurosceptics constitute a big share of a small electorate. They are amplified by low voter turnout. That's why small parties, with no representation in the House of Commons, score highly in Europe.

Their European victories rarely translate to the national stage. Parties without Westminster representation have jointly averaged 24% of the European Election vote since 1999, but only 4% of the General Election vote. In 2009, they garnered 4.7million votes but collapsed to 1.8million at the 2010 general election. Since 1999, governing parties have scored 13% higher in general elections than in preceding European elections; mainstream parties bounce back when it matters.

Ukip might win this May's European election as it is of a low stakes election with low turnout, but Nigel Farage's real challenge will be preventing a desertion of voters. In 2010, Ukip retained just 37% of their votes from the 2009 European election. That same retention rate would leave them with just 5-6% of the General Election vote in 2015. Bookmakers even suggest that there is a 66% chance that UKIP will win no Commons seats in 2015.

So forget their anti-EU rhetoric. It is clear that the European Union is of vital importance to Ukip. With no representation in Westminster and little prospect of anything more than a handful of MPs, the EU provides Ukip with a purpose. It formed their party and it gave them a platform to push their brand of nationalism. Their survival depends on it. Political parties need elected politicians and for Ukip, only the EU provides the opportunity for electoral success.

Even if they were able to, the idea that Ukip will secure a British withdrawal from the European Union is a misleading fabrication of the truth. It is propaganda of the highest order. Let's be very clear about this:

Ukip needs the European Union.


What's Hot