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Has the rise of the Brexit party blown away Ukip? Has the rise of the Brexit party blown away Ukip?
(32 minutes later)
Sitting in his glass-walled managing director’s office in east London, Lance Forman contemplates the logistics of potentially taking not only a second job, but a second job which is based in two separate overseas cities.Sitting in his glass-walled managing director’s office in east London, Lance Forman contemplates the logistics of potentially taking not only a second job, but a second job which is based in two separate overseas cities.
“From what I understand, the amount of time one needs to spend in Brussels or Strasbourg is actually not that onerous,” he says, hopefully. “And I’ve learned how to delegate.”“From what I understand, the amount of time one needs to spend in Brussels or Strasbourg is actually not that onerous,” he says, hopefully. “And I’ve learned how to delegate.”
A matter of weeks ago the Brexit party barely existed, and Forman was still a Conservative supporter. Now it is leading the polls for next week’s European elections, and as second on the party list for London, he seems likely to become an MEP, even if only briefly.A matter of weeks ago the Brexit party barely existed, and Forman was still a Conservative supporter. Now it is leading the polls for next week’s European elections, and as second on the party list for London, he seems likely to become an MEP, even if only briefly.
This dizzyingly fast pace is symptomatic of elections the government did not want to happen, and which are expected to deliver the Conservatives a solid kicking while propelling the Brexit party and its leader, Nigel Farage, into the political mainstream.This dizzyingly fast pace is symptomatic of elections the government did not want to happen, and which are expected to deliver the Conservatives a solid kicking while propelling the Brexit party and its leader, Nigel Farage, into the political mainstream.
The corollary to this can be witnessed 60 miles east in Thanet, the longtime stronghold of Farage’s former party, Ukip. Here, three weeks after Ukip was wiped off the electoral map locally, the same seems likely to happen in the European parliament.The corollary to this can be witnessed 60 miles east in Thanet, the longtime stronghold of Farage’s former party, Ukip. Here, three weeks after Ukip was wiped off the electoral map locally, the same seems likely to happen in the European parliament.
Stuart Piper was among 33 Ukip councillors elected in Thanet in 2015. He was returned this month, but as a Thanet Independent, a rump group of ex-Ukippers. Ukip itself fielded two candidates and received 1% of the total vote.Stuart Piper was among 33 Ukip councillors elected in Thanet in 2015. He was returned this month, but as a Thanet Independent, a rump group of ex-Ukippers. Ukip itself fielded two candidates and received 1% of the total vote.
“They’ve not only completely disappeared from the council, they seem to have almost disappeared altogether,” Piper said. “We didn’t see anybody from Ukip campaigning for the local elections. We haven’t seen anybody campaigning for the European elections.”“They’ve not only completely disappeared from the council, they seem to have almost disappeared altogether,” Piper said. “We didn’t see anybody from Ukip campaigning for the local elections. We haven’t seen anybody campaigning for the European elections.”
This precipitous decline is mirrored nationwide. While Ukip, under the more notably hard-right leadership of Gerard Batten, was polling up to 11% before Farage formally launched his new party, it is now at around 3%.This precipitous decline is mirrored nationwide. While Ukip, under the more notably hard-right leadership of Gerard Batten, was polling up to 11% before Farage formally launched his new party, it is now at around 3%.
One reason for the switch in fortunes is Farage. He was always Ukip’s greatest electoral asset, and its decline began the moment he quit as leader after the 2016 EU referendum.One reason for the switch in fortunes is Farage. He was always Ukip’s greatest electoral asset, and its decline began the moment he quit as leader after the 2016 EU referendum.
“Whether you love him or loathe him, Nigel Farage had an enormous personal following down here,” Piper says. “And it was a personal following – he’s always been a great speaker, he’s always been very charismatic. And that’s a very difficult act for anybody to follow.”“Whether you love him or loathe him, Nigel Farage had an enormous personal following down here,” Piper says. “And it was a personal following – he’s always been a great speaker, he’s always been very charismatic. And that’s a very difficult act for anybody to follow.”
But another factor is how Farage has tweaked his appeal to the British people, exemplified by candidates such as Forman, the wealthy owner and manager of an eponymous family fish business.But another factor is how Farage has tweaked his appeal to the British people, exemplified by candidates such as Forman, the wealthy owner and manager of an eponymous family fish business.
When Ukip topped the vote in the 2014 European elections the majority of its 33 MEPs were veterans of the tough and often unfashionable world of Eurosceptic politics, and Farage had to agree policy decisions with the party’s boisterous national executive.When Ukip topped the vote in the 2014 European elections the majority of its 33 MEPs were veterans of the tough and often unfashionable world of Eurosceptic politics, and Farage had to agree policy decisions with the party’s boisterous national executive.
In contrast, Farage has near-total control over his new party, which he says he runs as “a business”. It has no members, just paying “supporters”, and he was able to hand-pick the European election candidates from a reportedly long list of volunteers.In contrast, Farage has near-total control over his new party, which he says he runs as “a business”. It has no members, just paying “supporters”, and he was able to hand-pick the European election candidates from a reportedly long list of volunteers.
The slate is certainly eclectic, ranging from former Revolutionary Communist party member Claire Fox to former Conservative Ann Widdecombe and former journalist Annunziata Rees-Mogg. It is dotted with wealthy businesspeople such as Forman and property millionaires Ben Habib and Richard Tice, the latter of whom chairs the party. The slate is certainly eclectic, ranging from former Revolutionary Communist party member Claire Fox to former Conservative Ann Widdecombe and former journalist Annunziata Rees-Mogg. It is dotted with wealthy businesspeople such as Forman and property millionaires Ben Habib and Richard Tice, who chairs the party.
The populist message is that these are people who could outwit the EU and deliver Brexit. “Part of the offering that we have to you from the Brexit party is we’ve got men and women who’ve had successful careers in business,” Farage told an event this week in West Yorkshire. “They’d make a damn sight better job getting this country ready for its independence.”The populist message is that these are people who could outwit the EU and deliver Brexit. “Part of the offering that we have to you from the Brexit party is we’ve got men and women who’ve had successful careers in business,” Farage told an event this week in West Yorkshire. “They’d make a damn sight better job getting this country ready for its independence.”
In discussing Brexit, Forman repeatedly invokes his business experience, insisting that trade deals are not particularly important for global business, and that groups like the CBI are “making it up” when they say a no-deal Brexit would damage the economy. In discussing Brexit, Forman repeatedly invokes his business experience, insisting that trade deals are not particularly important for global business and that groups like the CBI are “making it up” when they say a no-deal Brexit would damage the economy.
This breezy optimism could arguably be an asset in an election for a party are fighting on just one policy stance – pushing for a no-deal Brexit.This breezy optimism could arguably be an asset in an election for a party are fighting on just one policy stance – pushing for a no-deal Brexit.
It does, however, bring pitfalls on more complex issues. Forman initially describes the idea of the Irish border being problematic in a no-deal Brexit as “a complete hoax”, and seems slightly hazy as how it could be resolved.It does, however, bring pitfalls on more complex issues. Forman initially describes the idea of the Irish border being problematic in a no-deal Brexit as “a complete hoax”, and seems slightly hazy as how it could be resolved.
“I just think that sometimes you need to move forward,” he says eventually. “People shouldn’t fear change. Change brings opportunity. It’s how it handled.”“I just think that sometimes you need to move forward,” he says eventually. “People shouldn’t fear change. Change brings opportunity. It’s how it handled.”
Forman is, however, under no illusions as to the emotions involved in the election. Last week a 10 metre (30ft) swastika was painted on the outside wall of the company’s headquarters. Forman says he believes the perpetrator was motivated by his support for Brexit, rather than the fact he is Jewish. Forman is, however, under no illusions about the emotions involved in the election. Last week a 10-metre (30ft) swastika was painted on the outside wall of the company’s headquarters. Forman says he believes the perpetrator was motivated by his support for Brexit, rather than the fact he is Jewish.
“Once you put your head above the parapet, people start attacking you,” he says. “It’s really not pleasant, and politics has got quite nasty.”“Once you put your head above the parapet, people start attacking you,” he says. “It’s really not pleasant, and politics has got quite nasty.”
Forman is, however, otherwise enjoying his sudden change of career, describing a hustings event in the largely remain-supporting London suburb of Chiswick as great fun if “very boisterous”.Forman is, however, otherwise enjoying his sudden change of career, describing a hustings event in the largely remain-supporting London suburb of Chiswick as great fun if “very boisterous”.
The same can probably not be said for many people in Ukip, which did not provide a candidate for the Guardian to speak to.The same can probably not be said for many people in Ukip, which did not provide a candidate for the Guardian to speak to.
The party is due to hold yet another leadership election next month, which could become a fight between Batten’s hard right, anti-Islam vision for the party, and a more libertarian approach. The party is due to hold yet another leadership election next month, which could become a fight between Batten’s hard-right, anti-Islam vision for the party and a more libertarian approach.
Brexit party will unveil full policies after EU elections, says FarageBrexit party will unveil full policies after EU elections, says Farage
One senior Ukip figure said they feared the party might not win a single European seat: “They’re all gone. We could maybe get one – but that’s being really, really optimistic. It could be really, really bad – end of the party stuff.”One senior Ukip figure said they feared the party might not win a single European seat: “They’re all gone. We could maybe get one – but that’s being really, really optimistic. It could be really, really bad – end of the party stuff.”
The figure, speaking anonymously, criticised Batten’s decision to put up candidates like YouTube controversialist Carl Benjamin, who is under police investigation following comments speculating whether he would rape the Labour MP Jess Phillips. The figure, speaking anonymously, criticised Batten’s decision to put up candidates such as the YouTube controversialist Carl Benjamin, who is under police investigation for comments speculating whether he would rape the Labour MP Jess Phillips.
“Put it this way, I know Ukip people in the south-west, where Benjamin is standing, who are voting for the Brexit party so they don’t have to vote for him. Putting up online shit-posters is not good politics. And Gerard just thinks the polls are wrong and we’re going to do well. It’s proper bunker mentality.”“Put it this way, I know Ukip people in the south-west, where Benjamin is standing, who are voting for the Brexit party so they don’t have to vote for him. Putting up online shit-posters is not good politics. And Gerard just thinks the polls are wrong and we’re going to do well. It’s proper bunker mentality.”
Brexit party in briefBrexit party in brief
Slogan “Let’s change politics for good”Campaign issues Leaving the EUCandidates 69, fielded people in all regions except for Northern Ireland.Current representation Officially none – the European parliament website lists the (many) MPs who have left Ukip since being elected as having no party group. More than a dozen have pledged allegiance to the party, but of these only Farage is standing again.Notable candidatesAnnunziata Rees-Mogg: journalist, former Conservative general election candidate, sister of a certain Jacob.Anne Widdicombe: former Tory prisons minister, subsequent veteran of TV reality shows and several pantomimes.Claire Fox: ex-Revolutionary Communist Party member who still declines to disown her belief that the IRA was justified in attacking civilians.Martin Daubney: journalist best known for editing lads’ magazine Loaded. Slogan “Let’s change politics for good”Campaign issues Leaving the EUCandidates 69, fielded people in all regions except for Northern Ireland.Current representation Officially none – the European parliament website lists the (many) MPs who have left Ukip since being elected as having no party group. More than a dozen have pledged allegiance to the party, but of these only Farage is standing again.Notable candidatesAnnunziata Rees-Mogg: journalist, former Conservative general election candidate, sister of a certain Jacob.Ann Widdecombe: former Tory prisons minister, subsequent veteran of TV reality shows and several pantomimes.Claire Fox: ex-Revolutionary Communist party member who still declines to disown her belief that the IRA was justified in attacking civilians.Martin Daubney: journalist best known for editing lads’ magazine Loaded.
They sayFarage says the new party is very much his operation: “We’re running a company, not a political party.”They sayFarage says the new party is very much his operation: “We’re running a company, not a political party.”
Brexit partyBrexit party
UK Independence party (Ukip)UK Independence party (Ukip)
BrexitBrexit
Article 50Article 50
European UnionEuropean Union
EuropeEurope
European electionsEuropean elections
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