I’ve been turning this comment over in my head and listening to Klepek’s section on this week’s Waypoint Radio clicked my thoughts into place with this.
I think observers of UK politics who keep regularly up-to-date would agree with the above. Since the 2016 Brexit referendum, UKIP has, to a large extent, lost both its raison d’être and most effective politician (Farage, who went to become a Fox News talking head before recently returning to found a competing far-right party). In a way, I do agree with this:
But I don’t think it’s as simple as that, even from a zoomed-out perspective. I think UKIP’s role here is complicated by its international reputation as well as how it is working on the domestic front.
I live in Wales. Between 2016 and 2018, Neil Hamilton was the Group Leader of UKIP in the Welsh Assembly. If you’re from a certain (older than I) generation, Neil Hamilton is associated with corruption and sleaze. A Conservative MP until 1997, he was implicated in the cash-for-questions scandal (effectively a political bribery scandal – Wikipedia) and thrashed in the next general election.
Hamilton has parlayed his membership of UKIP into some kind of political rehabilitation. Able to continue working in politics under a new guise has, in some ways, laundered his reputation and minimised the ongoing consequences of his misdeeds. It’s too early to say (he stood as UKIP’s candidate in a recent Welsh by-election and came in third), but it’s certainly put him in some kind of limelight.
I think this article discusses a similar laundering, but it’s for a different audience. UKIP is a party with an outsized reputation for an international audience than its polling numbers indicate; there is a crop of people who know UKIP because of Brexit. I’d include many well-intentioned Americans in this – they might not know their Iain Duncan Smiths from their Kate Hoeys, but they know UKIP.
Even if Benjamin does not win a seat in the European Parliament, being able to be listed on a ballot paper does legitimise him and may give him further inroads into the spaces in which he already has an audience and it also helps convert his current audience into people who associate UKIP with a respectable politics of some sort.