Since Chequers the party has undergone something of a revival. The question is whether it will lastby Tom Quinn / August 11, 2018 / Leave a comment
Just as it was becoming commonplace to predict the final demise of Ukip, Theresa May’s Chequers deal breathed new life into the party. Having spent most of 2018 flatlining at 3 per cent in the polls, Ukip’s rating increased to 7 per cent after the prime minister’s announcement of her Brexit plans and the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson. The fear of many hard-Brexit Conservatives is that any final deal that looked like Chequers—or involved even more concessions to the European Union—would cause further voter defections. So, is Ukip back from the dead?
Following the exit of Nigel Farage after the referendum, Ukip went through rather a turbulent period. One leader, Diane James, resigned after 18 days. Her replacement, Paul Nuttall, was ridiculed in the press as a Walter Mitty character. He stood down after Ukip’s support slumped to just 2 per cent in the 2017 election, down from 13 per cent in 2015.
Next came Henry Bolton, whose sole impact was to provide fodder for the tabloids after news broke of his affair with a glamourous young activist less than half his age, but who was revealed to have made racially charged comments about Meghan Markle. It culminated in the public breakdown of Bolton’s marriage and his ejection from the leadership in a no-confidence vote. His replacement, Gerard Batten, then oversaw the loss of almost all of the council seats Ukip was defending in the 2018 local elections. With most voters laughing at the party, Ukip was waiting to be put out of its misery.
And then came Chequers. May’s attempt to find a plan for Brexit alienated a section of Conservative voters who had voted “Leave.” They began switching their support to Ukip.
Ukip has never been seen by voters as a serious party of government. It is a protest party, which explains why its support can surge and collapse quite quickly. When voters have something to protest about in relation to the two main parties, they can switch their support to it. That is especially likely when the party emphasises issues where the main parties are underperforming. Once those issues are addressed, the protest party falls back.
That is precisely what happened to Ukip. It initially attracted voters alienated by the modernisation of Labour and the Conservatives, boosted by negative feelings towards…