Richard North, 20/02/2015  
 

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Talk of a major Ukip "revolution" at the general election looks to have been seriously overblown, says Politics.co.uk, a view based on new constituency polling released by Lord Ashcroft.

The data show that Ukip is not on course to win any of its key target seats currently held by the Conservatives. Most worrying for the party, we are told, in the poll of Boston and Skegness - where Ukip won its largest majority in last year's council elections – it has been pushed back into second place.

Three other polls in Castle Point, North East Cambridgeshire and South Basildon and East Thurrock, also find the party running behind.

Thus, hopes that Ukip is on course to grab up to dozens of seats from the Tories and others, says Politics.co.uk, "now look grossly exaggerated". The polls, it adds, "are seriously bad news for the Ukip leader, who is also running narrowly behind the Tories in Thanet South according to an earlier Ashcroft poll".

With pollsters suggesting the Eurosceptic party's vote is likely to be squeezed between now and May, the findings suggest Ukip will struggle to win more than the two seats it already holds. Possibly, it may end up with only Carswell. 

The poll is also picked up by the Mail, which headlines: "Blow for Farage as polls reveal Ukip is poised to lose ALL its key marginal battles against the Tories" – publicity which is almost as damaging as the hilarious Independent headline, "Ukip candidate Victoria Ayling asks: 'What happens when renewable energy runs out?'".

Perhaps just as relevant though is a recent report from the newly re-emerged Autonomous Mind. It records the result of a by-election in Harlow Council, held by UKIP councillor, Jerry Crawford, elected in 2014 and stepping down citing health reasons. Here, says AM, was Ukip's opportunity to show they are a serious electoral proposition. This wasn't a case of trying to overcome an incumbent and snatch a seat, it was a defence of a seat they already held.

Last May, the two Ukip candidates, Crawford and Janet Doyle, had swept home with 662 and 646 votes respectively, 38 percent of the votes cast, paving the way for another famous Ukip victory. But it was not to be.

Far from energising the contest, the chance to return another Ukip candidate motivated only a mere 26.4 percent of the electorate to turn out. And, despite that, Labour's vote, at 586, was only 16 short of the May figure, where the turnout had been a third higher. Ukip's vote, on the other hand, dropped by 41 percent to 353 votes – less than 20 higher than the Conservative vote.

And this is Essex, the county considered as one of Ukip's strongest, the county where Farage declared in his speech the other day that his party was "picking up support from across every social spectrum".

However, as Complete Bastard points out, much of the expectations of Ukip are built on the flawed analyses of academics who have made the fundamental error of believing that Ukip behaves the same way as a traditional political party.

It was a rather appropriate comment on Politics.co.uk, that observed that, "Only the terminally dim and politicial 'pundits' eager to justify their expense account, ever thought that UKIP was/is a political threat, to anybody but themselves".

Said John Tomkins of Swindon, "In the unlikely event that Ukip does manage to retain/pick up one or two seats, everything suggests that Farage will not be one of them". He adds: "If this comes to pass, then Ukip will implode and tear itself apart". And having alienated themselves from all the other political parties, he avers, the party "will disappear like an unpleasant smell in an elevator".

The final words in this piece, though, should go to Geln O'Hara who serves to articulate the obvious reasons why parties such as Ukip are so attractive to some people. He says they are able to indulge in "magical thinking" – simple solutions to complex problems, which give them the aura of being straightforward and honest. It allows people to imagine, to speculate and fantasise – a harmless and beneficial daydream, personally – but a worrying pathology when applied to a whole country.

Reality, though, is complex. Real choices and the actual practice of governance involve marginal trade-offs that involve using scarce resources for some purposes – and denying them to others. And in dealing with that reality, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats end up speaking like robots.

There's only an element of truth here – O'Hara's complex reality is even more complex than he makes out. But, when you don't have to implement policy and then take the responsibility for the consequences, it is easy to come up with simple, superficially attractive nostrums, which make real political parties sound wooden and unconvincing.

What it's beginning to look like, though, is that more of the public – Ukip supporters amongst them – are waking up to that reality. Instinctively, they know that Ukip is offering fantasy politics. And with that is coming the realisation that, with no substance to support it, the Ukip "revolution" will have to be postponed.

It didn't have to be that way.  There was a time when I thought Ukip could break the mould. But the fantasy took over. We will have to wait longer for that revolution.  






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