It’s a universal truth that all political parties are coalitions. The Labour Party, for example, is a coalition of old Labour traditional socialists to modernist “Blairite” factions and everything in between. The Conservatives have (a declining faction of) one-nation-type Tories, ideological Thatcherites, and further right almost-nationalist types.
The Liberal Democrats are still broadly divisible into the Liberals and the SDP, with a mix of those who joined when they were a left-of-Labour party, and have since pretty much melted away. And the Greens are an alliance between the middle-class, tree-hugging liberals of old, and old socialist elements floating around since Kinnock declared war on Militant Tendency.
But UKIP — UKIP have perfect the mongrel art of the political party. Farage is a sometime-Thatcherite, with a taste for the little Englander world-view, whilst UKIP’s first, and at time of print sole, MP is more of a classic liberal. And in elections in the north of England, they have been manoeuvring to be an Old Labour replacement.
So with such a varied composition, it can be no surprise that there are ideological fault-lines all over UKIP’s topography. And they seem to be coming to a particular head in South Essex.
I have already documented the goings on in Rochford & Southend East on this blog. Leader of the UKIP group, James Moyies lost out on the Parliamentary nomination to complete unknown Floyd Weatherworth. It was, as I have previously said, a monumentally stupid decision on the part of the local branch, as Moyies is without a doubt the best campaigner they have.
Quite why James lost is something that I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me like this ideological split is rearing its head.
James is a long way from being a little Englander (Well he is, err, Scottish… -Ed), being more in the vein of the pro-business, anti-“red tape” Thatcherites. I expect local UKIP membership has increased considerably since the EU Parliament elections, and many of those new members I would guess spent years happily voting far-right, and bristling at every way in which the country is not still demonstrably in the 1950s.
Guessing would be easier if I had anything to go on as regards Floyd Waterworth, but I expect he was more willing to play the “I want my country back” card than was James Moyies. Principle is a fine reason on which to lose a vote, but I doubt it’s much consolation to James.
Contrast this with the odd behaviour over in South Basildon & East Thurrock last week. UKIP candidate Kerry Smith was deselected apparently without reason. He reckons that:
“They want a big fish and I think another high profile Mp, Labour or Tory, could be about to defect to Ukip and they will be the parliamentary prospective candidate for this seat.“
It could be that someone is about to defect — Stephen Metcalfe? Jackie Doyle-Price? — and having learnt from the Roger Lord mess in Clacton the party are getting their night of the long knives out of the way. Or, it could be that another kipper has fallen foul of the changing face of their party.
Rather than being moved aside for a “big fish”, was Kerry Smith simply tossed back as the wrong kind of kipper? And how many more will UKIP purge from its ranks?