UKIP must avoid Trump’s populism


UKIP must avoid Trump’s populism

If UKIP is sincere in its desire to remain a credible political force in UK politics, it must resist the temptation to adopt Trump’s populist philosophy, says Joseph Meakin.

In the aftermath of Nigel Farage’s decision to stand down as leader of UKIP, and following the subsequent appointments both of Diane James, and subsequently Paul Nuttall, to replace him, political commentators have tried to predict the impact new leadership would have on the party’s philosophy and message. The significance of this ensuing period was heightened as it came at a time in which the party was seeking to redefine both itself and its role in British politics post-referendum. Paul Nuttall has made clear the party intends to target socially conservative working-class voters, disillusioned with the mainstream political parties. This group of voters are especially significant for their role in determining the outcome of both the EU referendum and Trump’s victory in the US. But despite these parallels it’s vital Nuttall resists the temptation to emulate Donald Trump’s American winning formula if he wants his party to be perceived as a credible electoral option over here.

Trump’s unpopularity this side of the Atlantic is impressive. According to a poll by YouGov, fewer than one in ten Britons viewed Trump favourably in August of last year, which stunningly makes him more unpopular in the eyes of Brits than Vladimir Putin, a man who’s violated the sovereign territory of two other countries and who has a fondness for having political dissidents murdered. While figures from the same poll show Trump’s approval figures to be much higher amongst current UKIP voters, replicating Trump’s ugly brand of anti-Islamism, nationalism and ‘government can fix all’ attitudes would surely spell electoral disaster for Paul Nuttall’s party, who need to broaden their appeal in the current by-election battlegrounds of Stoke Central and Copeland. Trump’s brash character is not British, and it is no surprise that he is so unpopular in this country.

To avoid a situation in which UKIP becomes the British chapter of the Trump war machine and becomes as unappealing to the public as Corbyn’s Labour, Nuttall needs to stop powerful voices behind the scenes from turning the once self-styled libertarian party into a party of economic and social populism like we have seen in America, where Trump’s corrosive ideas have made transformed the Republican party beyond all recognition from the one led by Ford, Reagan or the Bushes. Halting this change will be easier said than done. The well-funded Breitbart News, which has been one of the only mainstream political news sources to be supportive of UKIP in the past, will have a big say in the future of the party. Much has been written about the appointment of Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as one of Donald Trump’s senior advisors. UKIP must try to distance itself from the website if it wants its image to be clean in the eyes of voters in the north of England. Raheem Kassam, the editor-in-chief of the London bureau of Breitbart News unsuccessfully stood in UKIP’s second leadership contest last year, but did mobilise an enthusiastic and passionate support among UKIP members and supporters.

In addition, the money of top donor Arron Banks will help determine how UKIP’s identity will be shaped in the coming months and years. Banks, who infamously accompanied former UKIP leader Nigel Farage to New York earlier this year and posed with Donald Trump, threatened to walk away from UKIP if the party wasn’t going to reform, and has spoken of using his own online Leave.EU platform to help UKIP in the future. A quick glance over the social media pages of Leave.EU shows its pro-Trump sentiment and its hard line on immigration, which it sees as central to Britain’s divorce from the European Union. While Banks speaks of reforming UKIP at a grassroots level, my belief is the wily entrepreneur wants to ‘reform’ UKIP in his own image, namely as a party akin to Trump’s GOP, and lead it down a road of electoral disaster. Breitbart and Banks have clear and unequivocal pro-Trump agendas, which threaten to fundamentally change UKIP if they are allowed too much power.

Aside from letting outside influence force UKIP into the jaws of Trumpism, what else must Nuttall do if he wants to become a genuine threat to Labour in the North?

My view is that UKIP needs to talk less about Theresa May and more about Jeremy Corbyn in the coming months. The ‘hold the Tories feet to the fire’ on Brexit and ‘avoiding backsliding’ approach Nuttall has taken in his early days as UKIP leader seems unworkable; Theresa May’s vision for Brexit Britain are overwhelmingly popular in the eyes of British voters, so constant attacks on her handling of Brexit seem puzzling. Instead, it would be beneficial to focus more on Labour’s failings than the Tories’ potential to produce a dissatisfying Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn, a man who refused to sing the national anthem at a remembrance service for fallen British serviceman, and supported a bill drawn up by ex-Labour leader Tony Benn that sought to abolish the monarchy, quite clearly doesn’t represent the patriotic working class British north. But if UKIP can focus their attention on becoming a genuine alternative to Corbyn’s Labour, rather than hardening their stances on immigration, Islam and national security, they have the potential to put the final nails into Corbyn’s coffin.

Nuttall will address UKIP’s Spring conference in Bolton on the 14th of February. The nature of his speech will be telling. If he comes out with an impassioned case for UKIP and attacks Corbyn, the party can go into the Copeland and Stoke Central by-elections six days later with genuine momentum. But if Nuttall fills his speech with jingoistic tilts-of-the hat to Trump that get mainstream news attention, voters in the north may think twice before putting a cross next to a party they feel represent the ideology of one of Britain’s most hated political figures.

As a supporter of the Conservative party, I know I will not be voting for UKIP at the next election. But many on the left of politics need a new voice after being failed by Corbyn, and if UKIP plays its cards right, it could become the electoral force it has always threatened to be.

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  • Joseph Meakin
    Joseph Meakin
    Joseph is a final year student at Swansea University where he reads Human Geography. He is an active Conservative Party member. A budding journalist, he has a particular interest in culture, social policy and the direction of populist right-wing movements in the UK, Europe and the US. He has a keen interest in sport, and has written for The SpursWeb and the MailOnline.
    • getahead

      “Trump’s unpopularity this side of the Atlantic is impressive.”
      As a result of propaganda?

    • Stu

      Populism, left wing shorthand for the voters didn’t vote the way we told them to.

    • matt2568

      Populism yes. Trumpism no.

      The Breitbart/Raheem Kassam influence is the main reason why a party that was looking at taking 6 seats in 2015 ended up with zero (Carswell’s really an independent) and Farage being the most hated politican in Britain.

      The way forward is a Patriotic (non rascist), working class party. Strong on Jobs, security, immigration. Stop boring on about Muslims

      Leave bleating on about refugees, climate change, transsexuals and other irrelevancies to Labour.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      This little Tory wannabee is the type of Tory the has caused so many of us to leave and ignore the story party. He (a university product, so he must know more and better than us) is telling UKIP what do when UKIP has been campaigning for a quarter of a century, and is now winning.

      Trump won because he did something that the other politicians didn’t want to do, which was to talk to and listen to the voters. He also played the media like Paderevski on his piano. And he didn’t have to pay a red cent for TV advertising, which is where Clinton’s Saudi billions went, if they didn’t go into her handbag.

      Trump used big bombast statements to get attention and the media couldn’t get enough of it on video which they then couldn’t stop showing! No wonder he didn’t buy any advertising – he got it free!

      And now this Tory genius is telling UKIP to keep their message calm and measured, and certainly not in that nasty populist fashion. And people still vote Tory? Should they be allowed to put deck chairs up for each other?

    • lojolondon

      An article that perfectly illustrates the gulf between the people and the MSM / Elite. Mainstream politicians never, ever dare to say the truth or what they honestly think. Meakin calls this ‘presidential’. The people call it ‘lying’.

    • ukfred

      This article is clearly written to try to convince UKIP supporters to help the Conservatives, but why should they?

      The Conservatives are no longer conservative, merely one brand of the liblabcon uniparty and UKIP, to be successful needs to have a totally different political product. If you, dear Reader, cannot see why I have reached this conclusion, have a look at all that you have failed to do since getting the conservative foot in the door of government in 2010: all sorts of hate speech legislation; video surveillance in towns and cities; same-sex ‘marriage’; waste in the DfID.; tax credits giving the lower income folks a marginal rate of tax and loss of benefits of over 70%; a deliberate confusion of tax evasion and tax avoidance; sorting out the South Yorkshire Police’s failure (amongst others) to investigate the predominantly racially targeted child sexual exploitation; . This is not an exhaustive list. but it gives sufficient flavour of the sorts of people who call themselves Conservative.

      UKIP needs to keep some clear space between themselves and the marxist liblabcon uniparty, and if that means having a government that governs with the active consent rather than the sullen acquiescence of the people, that is sure a good thing.

    • Hybird

      “Trump’s ugly brand of anti-Islamism…”

      Joseph – Please explain how it’s a good idea to import people whose “Perfect Man” role model is a 7th Century mass-murdering rapist who kept sex-slaves and once tortured a man by building a fire on his chest. Especially as they’ll try to kill you if you criticise, mock or depict him in any way. In this debate, the “ugly brand” is Islam – an appalling ideology that sanctions murder, crucifixion, rape, slavery, wife-beating, stoning, flogging, FGM and throwing gay people to their deaths from high buildings. Allowing people to settle in the West is proving to be the biggest mistake in the entire history of Western civilisation and if Trump ( or Wilders and Le Pen etc) can do anything to correct this terrible, terrible mistake – then all power to their elbow and UKIP should be following suite. Opposing Islam is something that has to be done if our civilisation is to survive and it is also a proven vote winner. Trump is POTUS and Wilders and Le Pen top the polls in their countries while timid UKIP are bumping along in fourth place according to the most recent poll. It’s actually time Nuttall took off the kid gloves and got all “populist.” UKIP’s popularity would surge.

    • Jethro

      So many commenters here have already clearly articulated my points, that I hesitate to re-affirm them. Mr. Edmonds with, I think, stark clarity lays bare the nub of it: to complain that a man democratically elected is ‘populist’, and then to urge others not to follow this ‘road to electoral oblivion’ is so completely irrational, as almost to defy belief – ‘Don’t promise, let alone actually do, what your Electors want, because they won’t like it!’ seems to me to be absurd, even by the standards of non-undergrduate Welshmen. It might be, Mr. Meakin, that President Trump is unpopular in the pages of the Guardian, or on the BBC’s wavelengths, but by what measure can you claim that he is virtually universally derided and hated here? Now, admittedly, if you are a ‘Conservative’ now, it means you have swallowed whole and entire, the notion that, because the label reads ‘Conservative’, that, and that only, is what it must be, is to be, I’m sorry to say, a fool. What, just what, have The Conservatives actually ‘conserved’ over the last half-century: Empire? The Crown? The Church? The Navy, Army, or Airforce? Morality? Traditions? Honour? Incorruptibility?
      It seems to me that, since Churchill, the ‘Conservative’ Party has been a clique of Butskellites, who would have been quite at home in a Whig party under the perfect cynic Lord Melbourne (‘Mind, gentlemen, it does not matter what we say, but we must all say the same!’): ‘The Art of the Possible’, where the circumference of what is deemed ‘possible’ is drawn ever tighter: timidity personified, tepidity incarnate.

      • Hybird

        Churchill would be barred from membership of the Tory Party for his “Islamophobic” comments about Muslims and Islam. He would definitely have had something to say about Cameron and May and their lying “Nothing to do with Islam” nonsense after every Islamic terrorist atrocity.

        • Jethro

          Indeed, Mr. Hybrid! I, for one, can’t imagine him saying, ‘Germany is a peace-loving nation, and its sovereign, King Wilhelm II, is kin with our own King and Queen: let us not mistake the actions of a few hot-heads in Prussia for any belligerency on the part of that great and noble Land.’ Nor, somewhat later, ‘The grave news from Coventry is being used by people of ill-will to obscure from us the undoubted fact that Germany’s Chancellor, himself a victim of War, is in reality a man of Peace, who would never condone, let alone instigate, a policy of mindless aggression against harmless civilians. But, let us not forget, that many men – and women – in that great City have allowed themselves to be drawn into the dreadful, deadly business of forging weapons of War. That these people, whoever they were, who bombed Coventry singled out among their efforts, a Cathedral, should lead us to ask ourselves whether such buildings are not themselves provocative acts, designed to polarise and divide?’ or, later still, ‘I have to tell you that, yesterday, Allied forces liberated a Camp in Germany whose occupants had been unimaginably maltreated: men and women, stood tearfully recounting how, despite all their efforts, the carefully-selected residents, on whose behalf these Camps had been set up, had ungratefully cast this all back at them – refusing food and medical treatment, even that of such highly-skilled Specialists as Dr. Mengele – and setting themselves on a self-immolatory course. Soldiers have spoken of the touching care with which the victims of so much hate have been buried by the guardians whom they so much abused. The Peace Pledge Union has set up a Fund for the support of…’

    • TRAV1S

      Why is Populist used as a pejorative? One could argue that Tony Blair and Barack Obama were populists. The only difference is that Trump does not have the fake news lying media protecting him. It seems that the author of this piece has fallen for the BBC’s fake news narrative.

      Trump is the first president to bring attention to the rust belt and the crumbling inner cities. He has been consistent over decades with his view on unequal trade treaties. Trump is essentially and old school New York Democrat who has seen the Democrat Party destroyed by Marxist identity politics.

      For an illustration of what Trump is talking about just look at this video of Detroit. Detroit looks like something out of the Walking Dead.

    • Nockian

      This article completely misses the reality of Trump populism, that it wasn’t party driven, it was independent, it was one man over turning the entire establishment machine. Trump only stood on a GOP ticket, the party machine threw everything at him to try and stop him. Look back at the interviews where political pundits were laughing at anyone who suggested Trump might win the nomination, never mind win the election.

      In Britain we don’t nominate a president, but that does not mean that the same thing could not happen here. It would only need one firebrand to do precisely what Trump has done. Trump has shown that an established party machine is not necessary – as Brexit did – that it is now the internet that drives today’s politics. It is immaterial what UKIP does and it’s foolish to believe the Conservative party is some kind of unstoppable force-in 5 years the Conservatives may have vanished completely.

    • Ravenscar

      On the contrary laddie.

      UKIP, should enthusiastically, gleefully adopt all of President’s Trump’s pragmatic policies on energy, rolling back the PC lunatic world, dropping sclerotic business regulation and red tape, introducing SUPPLY side reforms ie strict and low tax fiscal policy, to reducing the welfare state and boosting the military, halting the foreign aid giveaway and telling the UN to get stuffed – if UKIP said aye to all of that, there’s simply no stopping them.

      Whereas, of the illiberal fantasists toryboy and scum party alike worship at the EU altar of Cultural Marxist idols and imbibe its poisoned chalice with zealous adherence. The Westminster vermin and their dogged pursuits its mantra of Frankfurt School doctrines which are/will/do guarantee industrial and social suicide, evidently are killing our country its economy and demographic make up – if UKIP says no to st Theresa’s thinners gruel, “we want Donald Trump not the toryboy beholden to the EU and George Soros creed!” – it’s a no brainer, it’s a vote winner.

    • Dynamo11

      I think you’ve missed the reason why Trump won, it’s not WHAT he said it’s what the other WEREN’T saying. Nuttall only need to bang the drum on the same talking points (controlled immigration, pro-British values, need for British services to serve Britons first, the need for jobs for Britons not migrants) and he’ll win Stoke handily from Labour who are completely opposite to all these points. Supporting the contrary to these positions is increasingly becoming anathema to working class voters who are the ones primarily affected, hence why Trump carried Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan

    • captainslugwash

      Since when has populism, i.e. appealing to, and dealing with the concerns of ordinary people, become a dirty word?

      If they were brave, UKIP would indeed adopt a ‘populist philosophy’. However, UKIP’s failing will be caused by diluting the message and pandering to gain support from those who would never ever vote UKIP, and alienating their loyal supporters in the process.
      As a Tory Mr Meakin, you probably realise that this is exactly what Cameron did. The Tories only have a temporary reprieve whilst we see if May delivers. If she fluffs it, your lead in the polls will disappear overnight.

    • geo

      please can someone explain to me why populism is an epithet?

      populism: support for the concerns of ordinary people.

      and Isnt a popular vote the fundamental core of democracy thus populism just a democratic vote made by the ordinary people regarding what concerns them? Just because you dont like the result of the vote – ie it doesnt signal your virtue or show right on “progressive” views – doesnt make it any less a mandate of the people who fear the “elite” are selling them down the river.

    • Countrywatch

      I think, Mr Meakin, you display a fundamental lack of in depth knowledge of the scale of support for Trump and his policies, both in the USA and here. Yes, there is a vocal opposition, but there is a silent majority who very much support Trump’s fresh approach, telling it like it is, not being afraid to face up to problems and to name them (for how else can you solve them if you don’t actually identify them e.g. due to political correctness?). The situation is far more complicated than you would have us believe, and I think you will continually be caught of your guard and “surprised” by events over the next few years due to the fundamental misunderstanding/perception that I believe you have.
      UKIP is far more likely to win by being bold, and not hankering after the centre ground so beloved by some Conservative politicians, and in that I include Carswell. UKIP will win if it is bold with its policies, if it appears genuinely interested in and able to identify and help alleviate the problems that face people, and if it leads, and refuses to kow tow to the latest opinion poll, or to be moulded into a “nice” party.

    • James Parish

      Yeah because being submissive and letting your enemy set the rules and terms of how to fight an election has always worked well right?

    • CommanderJampot

      In fact, Nuttall is quite pragmatic himself, in a few months, he managed to change UKIP from a party that appeals to upset middle class Tories and now focuses on the working classes of the North, abandoned by Labour.

      If Nuttall plays his cards right and wins his seat, bravo and good on him, also good on Stoke too for not electing an arch-Remainer!

      • matt2568

        Hoping Nuttall wins with style. This would give him the confidence to kill off the breitbart/Aaron Banks clique.

    • ratcatcher11

      This advice is to help Labour and the Conservatives not UKIP. What was Trumps great crime? Carrying out the policies that the American voters who put him into office. Is this what you call populism? If it is then he will have saved america from the corrupt Clintons and the money men who backed her and put Americans into jobs before Mexicans. UKIP should take Trumps lead and go for the blue collar working class vote and bring back aspiration for them instead of the promise of handouts and pro minority positive discrimination. This group simply want Corbyn to be stuffed and put back into the museum from whence he came and genuine aspiration and opportunity for all be the watchword. Ignore this rubbish UKIP and go for Corbyns jugular.

    • John C

      Ah, once again the moronic meaningless snowflake label ‘populism’ (= things I don’t like).

    • David Ncl

      Because fuck winning?

    • screwtape013

      “Joseph is a final year student at Swansea University where he reads Human Geography. He is an active Conservative Party member. ”

      The selection of someone like that to write a piece like this says a great deal about the editorship of Comment Central.

      • Bill Quango MP

        Don’t knock him for being a student or a tory. It’s a sound, well written piece. The argument is laid out with the pros and cons given.
        You don’t have to agree with it and just dismiss it because of where it originated.

        We should let him speak. After all, we aren’t undemocratic liberals.

        • Alan

          I’m happy for him to speak. I’m also happy to take his words with a pinch of salt; the Tories are not UKIP’s friends, and never will be. Nor, indeed, are they the friends or protectors of free Britons, however much they try to lay claim to that mantle.

    • Derek

      The UK public’s attitudes are not the same as those in the US,being somewhat less one example.. There is a lower belief in politics in the UK with only 10% of voters thinking MPs do their best for the country.The safest assumption is the rich will continue to gather most new wealth to themselves. That means inequality will continue its steady rise which will drive up populism. This particularly bad for Labour because populists are diametrically opposed to Labour values and principles. However the FPTP system is designed to preserve UK politics in aspic which will make it difficult for UKIP or any new party to make significant progress.

      • Hybird

        FPTP in France and Holland would guarantee Le Pen and Wilders would be in power after their coming General Elections. If UKIP had pulled their finger out they could have topped the polls too. They’ve been way too timid.

    • Andrew Edmonds

      Is this advice intended to help UKIP or wreck it? What Donald trump exhibits is not populism but pragmatism. Too often our political class have ignored the just desires of the people because they are squeamish, or they go against some complicated ideology they happen to hold. Donald trump has no ideology I can see, and no problem with being politically incorrect. He reasons that by the time re election comes around his policies will have shown their effects and the political weather will have changed. This is a powerful model for other, similarly pragmatic, parties like UKIP to follow. The thing that identified Conservatives used to be their pragmatism. This is something they need to get back.

    • cmp679

      Why cite a poll conducted last August months before he became president whilst conveniently ignoring a recent poll showing a majority support his state visit? This is the kind of thing that can ruin a good article.

      • Dynamo11

        Exactly: the same polls that showed, in the US atleast, Clinton had a 92% chance of winning the Presidency.

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