Tuesday, April 30, 2013

UK politics: no such thing as bad publicity

mirror 029s-ugl.jpgIt is perhaps a measure of how rattled is the political class that we should see the front page of the Daily Mirror devoted to an attack on UKIP. 

That there are a few seriously unpleasant types attracted to UKIP is a given, as is the case with all political parties. Within the ranks of the Conservative Party, I could point to some deeply objectionable racists, one of misterial rank. And, as one commenter remarked, is the UKIP dross any worse that the "bitter socialists" who cheered the IRA bomb at Brighton, or the vile racist comments at Lady Thatcher? 

In tactical terms, therefore, the focus on the handful of "embarrassing candidates" – which had Jon Humphries spluttering over his microphone this morning – is a mistake. And, as the actress said to the bishop, there is no such thing as bad publicity - certainly in terms of politics. 

Throughout its life, UKIP has always struggled to gain attention, and the current media attention is worth millions as advertising. Small wonder then that a YouGuv poll for The Sun is forcasting a 14 percent share of the vote for UKIP, the effect of which is expected to increase Tory losses. 

Furthermore, the publicity is putting a spark into an otherwise lacklustre campaign, which can only serve to drive up the turnout. That can only assist in offsetting the postal votes already cast. The more people who actually turn out on the day, the better it is for UKIP. 

If the establishment parties had any sense, they could of course, take UKIP on over its tragically amateurish policies. Their problem is, though, that the policy offerings from the so-called "lib-lab-con" are nothing to write home about either, which leaves them nowhere to go. 

What they really don't understand is how much they are loathed. UKIP has assumed the mantle of the protest vote, giving the ordinary man an opportunity to kick the establishment in the teeth. And thus, the more the establishment squeals and squirms, the more attractive a vote for UKIP actually becomes. 

Add to that the brand recognition that the media is obligingly giving, gratis, to the upstart party, and we can expect a comfortable increase in support on Thursday. 

Interestingly, the rise of the protest vote is a phenomenon happening all over Europe, with numerous dissident parties emerging, all attracting similar levels of support. And in each of the countries where they have emerged, the establishment and media reaction has been similar and equally misguided. 

Basically, the establishment, and especially the political class, has lost touch with popular sentiment, and has no idea how to respond to it. The rise and rise of UKIP in the UK (largely England) is a testament to that, and it would now seem that the prattling media, unwittingly, have become Mr Farage's greatest allies. And the more they prattle, the better it becomes.