How can we defeat UKIP? 5 points to consider

Anti-racists are protesting outside the UKIP conference in Doncaster later today. Here are five suggestions on how best to take on the far right party.

Campaigning against UKIP in Kent
Campaigning against UKIP in Kent

1. UKIP is a hard right reactionary party that stokes up bigotry and preys on people’s insecurity. But it is not a fascist organisation like the BNP. Under Griffin the BNP presented itself as a populist right wing party while hiding its true politics. That meant we could attack them by exposing them as Nazis. That method won’t work with UKIP – they are what they say on the tin.

2. Much of UKIP’s appeal comes from exploiting a widespread anti-establishment mood – people who are disgruntled and alienated with all of the main Westminster parties. An effective anti-UKIP campaign will have to have a similar edge, otherwise it will fall on deaf ears. That’s why the graffiti that sprung up on UKIP billboards was so effective, or the raucous protests that greeted Farage on his visit to Kent earlier this year. We also need to drive home that UKIP is no alternative: Farage wants to accelerate the neoliberal policies that have led to misery for so many.

3. We have to understand UKIP’s weak spots and target them. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin’s book on UKIP, Revolt on the Right, is crucial reading. It makes clear that the party is split between grandees at the top who see the UKIP as a Eurosceptic pressure group on the Conservative and a petty bourgeois base that wants to replace the Tories as the main party on the right. UKIP has one foot in the establishment and one foot out – and this can trip them up. Look at how Farage didn’t know what to say in Scotland, where the left wing Radical Independence Campaign helped capture the anti-establishment mood.

4. We have to start winning the arguments about immigration and racism. We have a long slog ahead of us to turn round anti-immigrant attitudes – which is where UKIP draws its strength from. But it can be done. The campaign to stop student Yashika Bageerathi from being deported earlier this year attracted support from students, teachers and well-wishers from all walks of life. Many trade unions have decent policies on paper over these issues, but do little to win those positions among activists, let alone the wider membership. We have to change this if we are to stop the poison of racism from dividing the working class.

5. The left has to start rebuilding in the South of England, East Anglia and Essex. These areas have large working class populations but little in the way of trade union or socialist organisation. That gives space for UKIP to run unopposed. The party’s base is in the middle class, but the danger is it will build out into the working class. Places like Clacton cannot be abandoned or treated as no go areas. If we don’t start offering an alternative on the left, UKIP will clean up on the right.


  1. “The left has to start rebuilding in the South of England, East Anglia and Essex. These areas have large working class populations but little in the way of trade union or socialist organisation. ”

    Are you kidding?
    There are lots of socialists in Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge!

    Not to mention Ipswich & Lowestoft Trades Councils
    & Ipswich Labour Party which runs the city council and likely to the Parliamentary seat in 2015, (committed to abolition of zero hours contracts and Living Wage)

    This years Burston rally was the biggest ever.
    Stand up to UKIP coach was fully booked!

  2. SPA: I appreciate your points, and I agree it is too sweeping to talk about ‘little’ organisation. I currently live in Norwich, and have previously lived in Colchester and Cambridge, and I am very involved with the People’s Assembly. But, the places you have identified are the urban centres of a very large area, and not completely representative. Take somewhere like Clacton, where UKIP are likely to get elected. There was an attempt to rebuild a trades council there a couple of years ago, and there is some engagement from activists in Colchester, but in reality what exists on the ground is minimal (and Colchester itself isn’t much better). Or consider Great Yarmouth, where they have a string of councillors – the pattern is similar, an aging local trades council and activists heading over from Norwich. Acknowledging this isn’t to write off these areas, or denigrate the hard work of activists, but to acknowledge there is much still to be done. It’s great that your coach was full, I think the Norwich one had quite a lot too, but that has to be seen as an activist base for getting out there and rebuilding.

    I know, from living in the area, that it’s easy to experience things like this as criticism from people who don’t understand the region except through silly stereotypes, and there’s certainly a lot of that, but surely we can agree that the level of trade union organisation in the region (and the whole bloody country) is not where it could or should be, and it’s our task to change that?

    A question for you: Do you think that the excellent promises of Ipswich Labour (over zero hour contracts and the Living Wage) will be enough to counteract the national stuff coming from Miliband and Balls, and inspire people in Ipswich to see them as a real alternative? I hope so, but I’m skeptical.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here