In the News
The challenges for Diane James
When considering the differences between pressure groups and political parties, UKIP help to exemplify how an organisation can be both. Their electoral success in terms of vote share in 2015and in dominating the UK’s delegation to the European Parliament would suggest that they are a political party. However, the events of 2016 may mean that they will struggle to build on these successes.
The EU referendum has deprived UKIP of their key manifesto pledge, not least as Theresa May has made it clear that she will be seeking immigration controls as part of Brexit negotiations. The Conservative promise of more grammar schools will also attract many former UKIP voters. This will make it much harder for them to win over disgruntled Conservative voters and may well attract ‘left behind’ Labour voters to the Conservatives rather than UKIP.
Brexit will also deprive UKIP of their main source of income – the European Parliament. Because UKIP have formed a pan-European party in the Parliament (ADDE) they have been entitled to €2 million in funding.
The electoral system has always penalised third parties. The Coalition government was perhaps the best opportunity for electoral reform (though the AV on offer probably would not have benefitted UKIP) and the demise of the Liberal Democrats since this has meant that proportional representation is firmly off the political agenda.
UKIP has always struggled with in-fighting. Nigel Farage described leading his party as ‘herding cats’. While he was a divisive figure within his own party, often at odds with his only MP, his charisma and national profile put him in a strong position to lead. Diane James probably lacks the political clout to control such an unruly organisation.
Unless UKIP is able to reposition itself and capitalise on the turmoil within the Labour Party, it is highly likely that they will return to being more of a pressure group than a party.