We should pity Nigel Farage – he is fighting a hard battle against UKIP’s shortcomings
In many ways, things are looking good for Nigel Farage at the moment. They may be set to get even better if some recent polls are to be believed, and his once fringe, single-issue party manage to come first in this week’s European elections. Through so much media attention, he has come from relative obscurity to being a household name in a matter of months, if not weeks. However, he currently finds himself in an extremely difficult and frustrating position due to the shortcomings of his party, his lack of allies in high places, and the ultimately tragic irony of his recent successes.
Farage is a fine party leader, and highly capable of presenting articulate points in a charismatic and winning fashion. This can be seen not only in his perceived defeat of Clegg in the televised debates (a gauntlet Clegg was foolish to cast down), but also in his devilishly contrarian tirades in the European Parliament, predicting and celebrating the downfall of the very establishment he is speaking as part of. He is a strong face to a maligned minor party with some controversial positions. In this respect, he stands alone. It would be a struggle to name any other UKIP MEPs with anything like the presentation skills and charm that Farage has successfully wielded, and here lies the major headache for him at present.
Farage is at the helm of a party unprepared for the sudden success and media spotlight that it has suddenly found. The intense scrutiny directed at the upstarts who dare to poll so highly has revealed a group who possess the same structural problems as all small parties, issues exacerbated by the smear campaign against them by the media establishment and the major parties. Lacking support and funding, UKIP have fielded for council elections whoever they find willing to do the job. Naturally, this includes characters on all parts of the bizarre/unsavoury compass, who are now under scrutiny and represent potentially fatal hazards to the growth and appeal of UKIP to the broader electorate. Farage himself almost certainly possesses views that many people would find highly distasteful, but he has the good public relations sense not to spout them over Twitter in the crudest, least politically correct way possible.
These shameful associations have been unearthed by the monumental smear campaign mounted by the major political parties. In light of Farage’s success, they have become motivated by fear, desperate to regain their voter share. Farage has no allies in the UK political landscape, and so finds derision and venom wherever he turns, mostly in the form of accusations of racism from all across the spectrum. His competitors have been hard at work, almost in a competition to dig out the most offensive and ignorant tweet from the archives of UKIP affiliates. This has produced too many cringe worthy headlines to simply dismiss as one or two candidates who slipped through the screening net. All parties (especially the smaller ones) contain weirdoes, but UKIP are suffering because theirs are being activity hunted down, and until a few months ago they could happily field candidates with less than squeaky clean views and output. The interrogation they now face is the price they pay for support in the polls, and challenging the major parties – there are undoubtedly Green Party representatives who have some pretty odd personal positions on alternative medicine and animal rights, but they are not presently rocking the boat, so nobody knows, much less care.
Admittedly there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but sustained attacks in the national press can only turn the public perception against you in the long run, and it really hurts your credibility when this causes the rising stars of your party to jump ship. There is a campaign against UKIP, and in the current climate, brave are they who would openly claim intentions to vote UKIP on Thursday.
In spite of the high hopes and newly elevated profile, Farage’s recent boom is marked with a degree of tragic irony. His party are set to come first in an election he doesn’t think Britain should be a part of. UKIP want out of the EU, and their recent polling successes won’t bring them much closer to this goal. Blame the electoral system, blame an electorate that’s set in its ways, but when the general election comes around all but the most Eurosceptic will return to their natural homes with the Conservatives or Labour, especially as it still looks set to be a close one. Farage’s campaign can only result in election and representation to an institution he abhors, and will shirk its participation processes whenever possible.
Ultimately, it can only be a time of frustration and irritation for Nigel Farage, as he finds himself as a capable individual at the helm of an incompetent party unprepared for the success they have had, and these weaknesses have been savagely attacked by the mainstream political establishment. Even if he overcomes this hostile reception to promising poll predictions, UKIP are still a long way from seeing their goal of independence realised.
Written by Alex Lumsden, edited by Gregory Pichorowycz
“They may be set to get even better if some recent polls are to be believed, and his once fringe, single-issue party manage to come first in this week’s European elections.”  http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/european-elections
“This can be seen not only in his perceived defeat of Clegg in the televised debates (a gauntlet Clegg was foolish to cast down), but also in his devilishly contrarian tirades in the European Parliament, predicting and celebrating the downfall of the very establishment he is speaking as part of.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26843996
“Admittedly there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but sustained attacks in the national press can only turn the public perception against you in the long run, and it really hurts your credibility when this causes the rising stars of your party to jump ship.”  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/13/ukip-playing-race-card-im-quitting-the-party