While ideologically poles apart, Edward Oldfield argues there are striking similarities between the internal struggles that are currently consuming Labour and UKIP.

As if the seemingly unending turmoil in the Labour Party wasn’t enough, now UKIP seems bent on inflicting the same internal strife upon itself.

But while the policies being fought over are different, parallels can be drawn between each of the party’s warring factions. In one corner of the UKIP ring we have the likes of Douglas Carswell and his ‘NewKIP’ contingent – a band of followers united in the belief that for the party to poll above 13 per cent it must edge toward the centre ground (on immigration at least). In the other corner we see the ‘Farageists’ content with the status quo (minus Farage).

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is also consumed by internal struggle. On the hand is the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), dogmatic in their belief that the key to electoral victory lies in the reclamation of the centre ground. Pulling in the opposite direction is the Labour leader and his small but loyal entourage, buoyed by a groundswell of support from new party members.

The timing of these battles are similar too. UKIP has finally achieved its dream of freeing the country from the European Union, while the Corbynistas have at last been victorious in wrestling control of the party for which they had in effect been frozen out for the better part of four decades.

Within UKIP, the decision to invalidate Steven Woolfe’s bid for the leadership of UKIP was a declaration of war on Farage’s wing of the party, indeed the suspension of Suzanne Evans and the action against Woolfe is clear evidence of a proxy war. And it is being treated as such – just last week political blog Guido Fawkes reported that UKIP MEP’s and other party big wigs have been working the phones engineering support for an Extraordinary General Meeting to overthrow the NEC and restart the leadership election.

Key party donor and Farage backer, Arron Banks, has begun to speculate that UKIP has run its course. In reality this means that a UKIP where Banks is no longer a man of influence is a UKIP that has run its course. The behaviour of Banks is reminiscent of the disputed conversation between Owen Smith and John McDonnell where McDonnell is reported to have stated that he would be prepared to split the party “if that’s what it takes”. These people are in no minds to give up their respective parties to people who think the only way to win is in the centre.

In the era of social media, these internal battles no longer need to be played out in the backrooms of party headquarters, but instead on discussion platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. Corbynistas may have thought they held the position of nastiest trolls on political Twitter, but the Farageists have rapidly loomed into view attempting to wrestle the mantle away from them. On the message boards of UKIP’s youth section, photos of ISIS executing their hostages have been edited to include captions proclaiming ‘Death to the NEC’, as well as numerous other ‘memes’ inciting violence against Carswell and other key centrists.  Anyone who questions the authority of Saint Nigel is branded a traitor. Carswell the man who was the only UKIP MP to win in 2015 has been called a Tory plant, while and anything that questions the Farage line is deemed a smear.

Having just achieved British independence from the European Union, UKIP should be primed to exploit the electoral annihilation that looks set to be visited upon Labour in its heartlands. The kind of voters Labour is losing will never support a Tory candidate and yet they may support UKIP. Just look at the figures for the referendum, countless former Labour heartlands rejected the calls from the out of touch elite ruling its party and instead voted to Leave. But instead of capitalising on this opportunity, UKIP has chosen to tear itself apart. The specifics may be different, but the story of Labour and UKIP seem so similar. Since 12 September, Labour could have made huge advances over a Tory Party that itself was riven with fighting, a Tory Party that saw a cabinet minister resign due to a perceived ambivalence toward those in poverty.  Why is it that the battle for the centre in both parties brings out the worst in people? Perhaps it has nothing to do with the centre and is more about waging war against factions. The slavish adoration from Farageists and Corbynistas is all too similar as we can see from social media. Accusations of treachery and threats of violence seem to have become the acceptable response to those attacking the dear leader. Carswell’s Twitter is full of abuse in exactly the same way most moderate Labour MP’s receive daily accusations of treachery, and worse. If you want to take on a cult to increase your party’s electoral chances you better have a thick skin it.

And so it seems the internal battle within UKIP is being modelled on that of the Labour Party. Mr Banks attacked the small cabal of people running the NEC in exactly the same way Corbynistas attack a small band of people trying to split the Labour Party. The threats are the same, the talk of the two parties splitting is the same, the plotting is the same. The road to the centre ground is a dangerous one.

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