Our early analysis of the local elections shows another round of disappointing results for UKIP, as the far-right party improves on last year’s dismal results but fails to capitalise fully on Brexit upheaval.
With the results rolling in, it is clear that the local elections have, yet again, been disappointing for UKIP. Whilst the results constitute the party’s best showing since 2016, it has made just 17 gains in the councils announced so far, tallied against 54 losses.
The party has been unable to capitalise on the ostensibly ideal political climate, with anxieties around Brexit at fever pitch and a crisis of mistrust in mainstream politics. The two-party domination of the political landscape that set in in 2017 has subsided, with the main benefactors being the Lib Dems, Greens and Independents, not UKIP or other far-right parties.
UKIP’s failure is due to its incompetent leadership, embrace of extreme candidates and heavy defections from the party, especially to Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party, which did not contest the locals.
This is no cause for complacency, however, as any gains for Gerard Batten’s UKIP is cause for concern, as the party currently stands closer to the British National Party (BNP) of 2010 than hard right Conservatives. The even more extreme UKIP splinter group, The For Britain Movement, also won its first seats in Hartlepool and Epping Forest.
Moreover, the European elections are to be fought in less than three weeks’ time, with both UKIP and the far-right extremist and convicted criminal Stephen Yaxley Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) attempting to stir up divisions in order to jump on the EU gravy train.
Batten was optimistic that 2019 would be the year that UKIP would re-establish itself as an electoral threat. The party stood 1,400 candidates across the UK, including multiple candidates with known histories of racism, and others with convictions for hooliganism, who sought to stir up local divisions across the UK.
Whilst the electorates across the UK overwhelmingly rejected UKIP’s poisonous politics, one success for the party was Sunderland, where they won three seats, having failed to stand a single candidate last year. In Derby, where UKIP stood a strong slate of 17 candidates, the party won two seats, including in the Alvaston ward, with a majority of 56%. UKIP won one of its three victories last year in this ward with 59% of the vote.
Meanwhile in Oldham, a former BNP target, an area of high dissatisfaction with mainstream politics and a history of racial tensions, UKIP won no seats but averaged 17%, down from 22% from 2015, when the same seats were last contested. In Rochdale, which is still dealing with the repercussions of the 2012 grooming case, the party came second place in eight wards, with candidates averaging 20%, up from 13.5% last year but down from 25% in 2015.
In Swindon, home of UKIP’s highly controversial European candidate Carl Benjamin (AKA Sargon of Akkad), the group averaged 11%, compared to 4% last year and 15% in 2015. Martin Costello, formerly of the oddball pro-Trump group Make Britain Great Again and known for his involvement in the Yellow Vests UK, received 14% in the Liden Eldene & Park South ward, coming to third of four.
Examining the results achieved by UKIP candidates only provides half the picture. A major factor in the party’s failure to exploit Brexit anxieties is due to its dearth of candidates, standing a third of its 2015 slate, with many once important areas for the party have been completely abandoned. For example, there were no candidates in Basildon, and just two in its former key area of Thurrock. For Britain, formed only in October 2017, were able to outstrip or match UKIP in terms of number of candidates in eight councils across the UK.
The For Britain Movement
One notable development is that For Britain, Anne Marie Waters’ anti-Muslim UKIP splinter group, received its first electoral victories, despite Waters’ failure to support local candidates or even give them funds to produce leaflets.
Notably, former BNP councillor Julian Leppert won a seat in the Waltham Abbey Paternoster ward in Epping Forest, an area where For Britain has engaged in sustained campaigning, coordinated by the BNP’s former elections guru, Eddy Butler. Leppert won with 41%, which translates to just 321 votes. The low turnout in this ward (23%) underlines that extreme figures can slip in when the majority of the electorate do not exercise their right to vote. Karen King also won a seat in Hartlepool, a former UKIP target, with 50%.
Whilst these wins are significant given the extremeness of For Britain, it is important to not to be alarmist. In Stoke-on-Trent, For Britain’s contemptible councillor Richard Broughan, who defected after being elected on a UKIP ticket, crashed out of his seat in the Abbey Hulton and Townsend ward in eight place, with ex-BNP Mel Baddeley, now with the City Independents, taking the seat. For Britain also performed badly in its focus areas of Leeds, where it stood eight candidates and came last place in half of them, and in Sandwell, where the party’s candidates have been exposed for spreading the racist white genocide conspiracy theory. Whilst For Britain has gloated that it has made “huge gains”, it is important to remember that it remains an extremely marginal force in British politics.
No Room for Complacency
Whilst far-right parties have struggled at the locals, the European elections are due to take place in just three week’s time. Whilst UKIP is likely to get crushed by Farage’s Brexit Party – our recent polling suggests that support for the Brexit Party is up to 28% – there is a chance that UKIP will receive chunks of the vote due to its status as a household name across the UK. Our polling suggests that much of the electorate appears to have not noticed the adoption of a central anti-Muslim platform by the group, who still overwhelmingly believe it remains a pro-Brexit, anti-immigration party. The European elections are run on proportional representation, which favours smaller parties, and there is a chance that UKIP candidates will slip through the net.
This is cause for concern given the slate of candidates fielded by the party, including South West candidate and minor YouTube star Benjamin, who has refused to apologise for telling MP Jess Philips “I wouldn’t even rape you” on Twitter, and for a series of racial slur-ridden rants. Other candidates include Stuart Agnew MEP, exposed by HOPE not hate to have recently spoken at an event by a far-right pro-Apartheid group, who has top billing in the Eastern region, and Alan Craig, a notorious homophobe, is also representing the party in the North West (albeit in eight place).
Moreover one Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), the convicted fraudster and founder of the violent anti-Muslim gang the English Defence League (EDL), is standing in the North West, the region which elected then-BNP leader Nick Griffin in 2009.
HOPE not hate is campaigning against likes of Lennon and Benjamin and the hate they peddle. The fewer people who vote, the easier it is for extremists to win a seat. Now is the time to stop them in their tracks.