UKIP Steal the Show at Local Elections

May 9, 2013 No Comments

ukipBritain’s United Kingdom Independence Party have long been regarded as a fringe movement. The leaders of the major political parties have tended to dismiss UKIP, with veteran Tory Ken Clarke branding the party ‘a collection of clowns’ on the eve of the by-elections, and the emergent party has been accused of harbouring closet racists within its ranks.

Meanwhile UKIP has harsh words for Britain’s traditional parties, and in response to burgeoning popularity had recruited 1,732 candidates to stand for it at the recent local elections, with the party admitting that it hasn’t had time to vet them all.

But UKIP has seen its popularity before the polls translated into a moderate but still unexpected degree of electoral success, with UKIP candidates winning some seats on local councils and pushing down majorities for winners from traditional parties to dangerous levels in other regions, including some where no UKIP candidate has stood before.

It’s important to note that UKIP’s unprecedented success means that they will have some say on some councils; the party has not won control in any area, though ‘the Standard quoted a ‘Tory insider’ as saying that ‘The results leave us looking at local coalitions with UKIP in those councils where we lost control.’

A secondary effect is that UKIP has split the Tory vote in some areas: while UKIP made headway in South Shields, for instance, it was Labour who brought home the win.

Those Tory-UKIP coalitions will give UKIP leverage to force Tory councils to the right, especially on social issues, and put some genuine power in the hands of UKIP’s inexperienced and populist councillors. As UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farrage has said that he expects to do better than expected in national elections too.

UKIP’s Housing Policy

So what would UKIP do with UK housing policy if they could? There’s no dedicated housing policy segment on the UKIP website, but a glance at some of their other policies gives an indication. Where they have the chance, we can expect UKIP councillors to oppose green belt building programmes, which they regard as being necessitated by excessive immigration.

However, UKIP don’t fit neatly into either the left or the right and they’re likely to come out in favour of social housing improvements and possibly even rent caps. That raises the possibility of UKIP poaching votes from the left as well as the right. They’re more likely to be guided by priorities like immigration and jobs than by either ideology or even party loyalty.

In their Local Manifesto, UKIP emphasise what they see as the importance of local councillors being accountable to their constituents. The best guide to UKIP councillors’ tendencies on housing is unlikely to be the individual’s voting record, since many of the party’s councillors have never stood or served before. And the party’s manifesto offers scanty pointers. However, while the party’s leader, Mr. Farage, points to his ‘party of eccentrics,’ few are likely to devolve far from the populism that has made them so unexpectedly electable, at least locally.

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