Richard North, 24/05/2014  

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Looking at the opinionated Mr Sandbrook in the Daily Mail today, parading his ignorance on the matter of UKIP, we see him making a mistake commonly made by UKIP supporters themselves.

With his opening line, "His policies fill me with dread", Sandbrook confuses policies with aspirations. Farage, to whom he is referring, does not have any policies. The UKIP leader ditched these in a very spectacular way, and took his party into the current round of elections without a manifesto, making it officially a policy-free zone.

Thus, while Mr Farage is very clear on wanting to reduce immigration into this country, that remains only an aspiration. What he doesn't have is any policy - a clearly expressed idea of how he is to achieve his aim. All he can do is link it with another aspiration – withdrawal from the EU. Again, when it comes to policy – Farage doesn't have the first idea of how to bring about his aim.

For sure, we are now told that, on a good day, Mr Farage will allow for the use of Article 50. But that is a mechanism, not a policy. Article 50 simply sets out the procedure by which the UK would secure an exit agreement. What that agreement should be, and how we set about creating the conditions whereby we could achieve it, is a policy matter. Mr Farage doesn't do policy.

Despite all this, Mr Sandbrook thinks Mr Farage is a "tactical genius", having turned UKIP from "an obscure anti-federalist pressure group" into "a populist anti-Establishment party" (his capital, not mine).

Yet, by reference to its core value – leaving the EU – we now see the apparent price of UKIP's popularity is a majority of people now in favour of staying in the EU, and a prime minister set to launch an "in-out" referendum, with the very real prospect of the "inners" winning the day.

Mr Farage's "tactical genius", therefore, is the equivalent of transforming a day-care nursery into an abattoir for the first-born, changing the very nature of the business because slaughter is more profitable in the short-term than nurture.

Of course, true genius would be staying true to the core issue, building a solid constituency of support and a functioning campaign so that, when the day comes for a referendum, we are in a position to fight and win. And he would do it in such a way that it would open the way for a functioning  independent Britain – something that has eluded policy-makers for seventy years.

However, unable to achieve even the beginnings of a functioning campaign, and totally devoid of the skills and understanding that would enable him to build a vision of a post-exit Britain, Farage has instead reinvented himself as a demagogue. With that, he employs the predictable and well-worn tools of the populist, all to give him a cheap, quick boost in the polls.

In so doing, he has created a "glass ceiling" for his party, which is already showing some signs which could suggest it has peaked, while alienating thousands of potential supporters, past and present.

That Mr Sandbrook sees this as "tactical genius" perhaps says more about him and his newspaper than it does Mr Farage. But then we were never going to get an analysis of the performance of an anti-EU movement, since that has never been of the slightest interest to the likes of the Mail or the Sandbrooks of this world.

This, though, shows up the difference between the "old guard" and the current rash of UKIP supporters. While we saw the party originally as our platform to get us out of the EU, its present role as the dustbin for protest votes is far more to the liking of current members, whose interest in EU matters is often slight.

The complete mismatch between what it should be and what it has become, however, has confused more than one commentator. Another victim is the easily-fooled Charles Moore. He sees in the latest developments, a tension between the provinces and the capital, which he believes to be "a fairly new thing for Britain".

In fact, precisely that tension lay at the heart of Chartist movement, its intellectual roots going back three centuries. It is "fairly new" only in the sense of an arrogant bubble-dweller having just discovered it, believing it to be new because he has become aware of it. As we all have come to learn, nothing exists until these people realise it exists.

Harping back to Sandbrook and the "tactical genius" of Farage, the fact that UKIP has been rebuffed by London is both entirely predictable, and a reflection of Farage's tactical ineptness that he has allowed it to happen.

Any putative revolutionary will tell you that political movements stem from outside the capital, and build their strength in the provinces. The assault on the capital comes with the very last phase of the revolution, as part of the final assault.

Moore mentions Hitler in his little dissertation, but what he misses is that the man who was to lead Germany had the tactical skill to keep out of Berlin until he was ready, not making his move on the capital until he had secured his power bases elsewhere.

And that is the interesting thing about the current developments. Farage is no more capable of mounting a long-term, effective challenge to the establishment, than are establishment commentators like Moore and Sandbrook are capable of understanding what is happening around them.

However, when, at last, there is an effective challenge, it won't come from the tactically inept Farage. Furthermore, the first the likes of Messrs Moore and Sandbrook get to know of it will be when they redeem their one-way tickets on the tumbrels.

You never hear the bullet that kills you, they say. And the establishment never recognises the revolution that brings it down - that is why it is able to do so. And, Farage - all noise and clamour - isn't going to be the leader of the one that does.  The best he can be is the warm-up man who keeps the establishment distracted.


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