Coffee House

Ukip needs to reduce its defection rate to be taken seriously

15 April 2014

11:36 AM

15 April 2014

11:36 AM

Party-switching has been relatively common among British MEPs in recent years.  In the past ten years, 13 MEPs have ended their term of office in a different party to the one they started it in, 9 per cent of all those elected. That is equivalent to almost 60 MPs changing allegiances in the House of Commons between elections, which is unheard of.

When we look closer at the figures we see that this phenomenon is largely down to one party in particular: Ukip. Ukip has been very successful in recent European Parliament elections, winning 12 seats in 2004 and 13 in 2009. But following both elections, the party struggled to keep hold of its MEPs. In total, eight UKIP MEPs have left the party while still in office since 2004.

This means that in the past decade an MEP elected for UKIP has had a 1 in 3 chance of leaving the party, through defection or sacking, before the next election. In contrast, only 6 per cent of Conservative MEPs have changed parties, while no Labour or Liberal Democrats have done so. Out of all party changes among British MEPs since 2004, 62% have been MEPs leaving Ukip.

[Alt-Text]


Two Ukip MEPs – Marta Andreasen and David Campbell Bannerman – have defected to the Conservative Party. Others, most notably Robert Kilroy-Silk but also Nikki Sinclaire and Mike Nattrass, have formed their own parties after falling foul of the Ukip party leadership in one way or another. Various forms of impropriety did for Ashley Mote and Tom Wise. Godfrey Bloom, meanwhile, has been on a one-man mission to discredit both himself and his party in the most spectacular of fashions, a crusade which saw him eventually resign his membership. Ukip have, however, gained one new member in the European Parliament via the defection from the Conservative Party of the noted climate sceptic Roger Helmer.

At first glance, the omens for the May elections are not good. Ukip is going into the election with just six candidates that have previously served a full term as a Ukip: the same number of full-term incumbents with which they fought in 2009, when they were a rather smaller outfit. Given that Ukip look set to either win or finish second, the spectre of more defections should be upmost in the party hierarchy’s mind.

However, the elections may instead mark a move towards a further professionalisation of their operation. Patrick O’Flynn, for example, is the party’s leading candidate in the Ukip-friendly East of England constituency, and as the party’s Director of Communications is said to have toughened its message discipline and modernised its internal communications procedures.

Ukip may be attempting to move away from their image as a gaggle of un-PC campaigners and individuals, and towards a more traditional political party with vetted policies, a degree of collective discipline, and strong leadership from the centre. Making this transition may help stem the flow of defections, but it may also dilute their appeal as a party which embodies anti-establishment sentiment.

Sean Kippin and Richard Berry work for Democratic Audit, which is based at the London School of Economics

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
  • EnochPowelMk2

    Gadhafi’s son was permitted to go to LSE. I have no respect for an organization that aids dictators, whether they are Arab ones or European ones that we face in the EU.

  • Richard N

    I think that 20% of the British people saying the will vote for UKIP in the next General Election, and about 30% for the coming EU elections, says that people already take UKIP seriously.

    And the more of this pathetically transparent anti-UKIP propaganda all of you liblabcon media put out, the stronger UKIP becomes.

  • JJ

    They could still be a party open to ideas and ordinary people, and ALSO have a professional organization (with a little chaos). That’s part of the charm of UKIP.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Making this transition may help stem the flow of defections, but it may
    also dilute their appeal as a party which embodies anti-establishment
    sentiment

    How does a better discipline somehow impinge on the party’s ability to highlight the systemic corruption of the establishment or undermine its appeal to the electorate? Tightening up their presentation doesn’t mean they have to sell out and join the rest of the political classes in the sewer.

    UKIP take on board criticisms and do something about them (unlike their arrogant elitist opponents) and the sycophantic establishment commentariat whine about it. Priceless

  • the viceroy’s gin

    It’s amusing one must lecture these academic layabouts about politics, particularly as they fancy themselves knowledgeable about such, but I guess periodically it’s necessary to do so.

    FYI, kids, at least 60-80% of the electorate is pure tribalist (like you all, undoubtedly). That is, these minimum 60-80% tribalists will vote for their tribe, no matter if it’s led by the Castro brothers (and some say the Castros today are more conservative than LibLabCon). The only variable in this +60-80% tribalist bloc is whether or not tribal strains within the bloc turn up to vote for their tribe. Staying home is the only other choice for such tribalists, for they will vote for their tribe only, if they vote at all.

    And so then, the only real thoughtful choice taking place come election time is at the margins, within that 20-40% of non-tribalist, thoughtful folk (and it’s much less than that percentage, in reality, but let’s be charitable and not identify so many as mindless tribalists).

    Now then, the real demand you academics are making on UKIP is that they should appeal to these lazy tribalists in the supermajority of the electorate, which of course you tribalists would favor. It reinforces your world view.

    But remember, the less than 20-40% of the electorate are not like you, or even close. They are not mindless tribalists, and so do not fit within your comfort zone. But perhaps you’d be more comfortable if you went back to your leafy academic projects, speaking back and forth to each other, and returning to the rooms full of nodding heads… activities more in line with your ken.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    BTW…I wonder if Devednick have been within 10 miles of a pasty lately….

  • Alex

    So how seriously should we take a party that has lost 50% of it’s party membership since the current leader take over?
    (That’s the Conservatives, for the slow one at the back of the class).
    I would list the reasons why we can’t take the Lib Dems or Labour seriously, but I doubt there’s enough space on the server.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Can I do 1 each? Michael Brown’s fraudulent cash being kept by the Lib Dems (and,btw, lets see what happens with Choudrie) and the party formerly known as Paedophile PR

    • Kaine

      The reduction in Tory membership has more to do with simple mortality more than anything else. The membership die and are not replaced because why on earth would a 25 year old join the Tory party?

      • Richard N

        And why are they not ‘replaced’?

        Because if you’re stupid enough to vote for a mild Socialist party – which is what the so-called Tory party is – you might as well vote for the total nothing Milliband. At least they’ve got a name that sounds Socialist.

        • Kaine

          Actually it’s because the Tories historically attracted members because local associations were large social clubs where you might go to meet a nice young man or woman. It’s not surprising that those Conservative Associations still doing well tend to be university based social gatherings. If you’re young and want to change the world you might be attracted to many different parties, but not one whose stated purpose is status quo.

  • dado_trunking

    No one needs to worry about Ukip, never mind take them seriously.
    It’s only a matter of time before one man bands implode . . .

    • Kitty MLB

      Little acorns and all that. As well as the issues with
      the Tory oak and the weeping Lib Dem willow tree,
      and the poisoned ivy that is the Labour Party.
      You just never know what will happen.

      • dado_trunking

        Has Ukip economic spokesperson Prof. Tim Congden blown yet another fuse?
        Oh hang on, has he been sacked and replaced too?
        Jeez, it’s like on the Eastern Front round ‘ere (!)

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …well that must mean you’ll be down to eating the goat soon, eh lad?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Yes, I’m certain everybody including UKIP is desperate for “Democratic Audit” to “take them seriously”. With the approval of this gaggle of academic troughers at stake, you can bet UKIP will get right on these recommendations, whatever they are.

  • Kitty MLB

    There seems to be a somewhat overload of attacks aimed at UKIP at present
    anyone might assume there were some elections in Ma.
    I must say Nigel Farage looks quite suave in his country wear
    you can tell a lot about a man by his headwear and hats suit Mr Farage
    very well indeed .

    • Conway

      At least he had the sense to bring waders and they don’t look as though they were a last minute purchase from Harrods.

      • Kitty MLB

        Unlike the designer wellington boots worn by Milipede and Cleggie
        when they visited the flood areas. I don’t think they have ever set
        foot in the countryside before, poor little lambs looked quite lost.

  • Streben80

    I dont see UKIP loosing appeal by offering people a more cohesive offering both in terms of policy and organisation, neither of those things require selling your soul to the centrist consensus, they simply signify that not only can people believe in what UKIP say but trust that the party is serious about being able to deliver too. That isnt a sellout to the establishment, it is about giving people a viable alternative built on solid foundations. It was infact essential to the party moving forward.
    It doesnt mean you wont see characterful and individualistic people representing the party, of that I am certain, UKIP is full of diverse people who could never be described as dull, quite the opposite and all the better for it.

    • Conway

      All the UKIP members I know have had a proper job, for a start!

      • Kaine

        Since when is being a bookie, er, ‘stock broker’ a ‘proper job’?

        My first job was making Christmas lights. Was that proper?

      • Streben80

        I have lived on minimum wage for a decade, another candidate I know experienced the unemployment system recently, others run their own businesses, that is the brilliant thing about UKIP – so much variety and a wealth of people as candidates with lives just like the majority of those who will vote for them. When a voter asks me what can I know about their struggles I dont need a cheat sheet to pretend, I know because I live it every day, that is why UKIP really is the true workers party, our understanding isnt theoretical, it is actual.

  • Denis_Cooper

    By definition UKIP attracts people with an argumentative and rebellious streak who will just as readily complain about what they see as constitutional outrages and abuses within their own party as they will complain about constitutional outrages and abuses arising from the EU. In general they are not the kind of people who will be prepared to keep swallowing their discontent out of loyalty to their party, and of course to protect their personal political career prospects if they think they have any, in the same way as most members of other longer established parties may be prepared to do. Plus it has been clear for a long time that there are some people in UKIP who are actually opponents of its cause, who have been planted or have chosen to plant themselves with the deliberate intention of disrupting it when the moment is right, which usually means when there are elections in the offing. It’s worth recalling that the Tories had the same problem with one of their longstanding MEPs, who chose his moment to defect to the LibDems to cause the maximum damage, and quite likely there are others waiting to do the same.

    • HookesLaw

      So Bloom was a sleeper?
      From what you say then the people who left, upset at constitutional abuses in their own party’ were right to go.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …hmmmmm, and when your buddy Dave’s head is mounted on a spike 12.75 months from now, where will you go, lad?

        Goodness, time is just flying, isn’t it? Pretty soon, we’ll be counting down and the months will be in single digits. And then, time will run out…

  • MirthaTidville

    Just another of the almost daily scare stories about UKIP..If they were not causing panic among the establishment nothing of this sort would be heard

    • Kitty MLB

      Indeed all other parties have just woken up to the fact that those they
      call fruit cakes are the favourite food for the electorate.
      Ignore them, insult them and when they didn’t go away besmirch their characters. I am quite ashamed of how my party has been behaving.

    • ARDNASSAC

      But you hear lots of negative stories about the Libdems so based on your logic they are also causing panic among the establishment………..not.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …the LibDumbs are dying though. Nobody bothers with them because they’re dying.

  • dmitri the impostor

    Oh dear. Maybe UKIP should follow the lead of certain groves of academe and take a few hefty slugs of cash from dubious sources in Libya. That should have all the bien pensant eggheads taking them ‘seriously’.

  • alabenn

    Why would the attrition rate matter in a party that wants to destroy the institution its members are elected to, if it was any other way, they would be part of the problem.
    Lightweight thinking from our supposedly deep thinkers.

    • ohforheavensake

      It makes Ukip look like a bunch of amateur bunglers, though: doesn’t it?

      • alabenn

        Rather amateur bunglers than professional ones like Blair, Brown and rest of the Labour Party who while destroying the finances and pensions of the country signed up for ever more EU regulations to assist them in that task.
        They never had any defections, what does that say about their standards.

        • HookesLaw

          What do the defections say about UKIP then?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …well, your whining about them says you’re terrified about UKIP, lad.

            • ARDNASSAC

              Let’s be clear about this; most of those who may be terrified of UKIP would not actually mind if UKIP gained power or at least won some seats. It is the prospect of letting Miliband in with only 35% of the vote and a return to mass non EU immigration and high taxes that terrifies them. That ought to terrify UKIP voters too.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Yes, but UKIP voters know that all of the LibLabCon clones believe in that insanity. That’s the whole point of UKIP’s existence. Yes, UKIP is terrified of all that, but LibLabCon certainly aren’t… as that destructive program is the whole point of their existence.

          • dado_trunking

            Neil Hamilton makes us all shrug with fearless disinterest.

            • Richard N

              ??

  • colliemum

    That would mean, would it not,that we shouldn’t take the three establishment parties seriously any longer, because their members are switching parties at huge rates.
    Given that these members directly affect our lives, being local councillors, I’d suggest this is of far greater concern than some disaffected former UKIP MEPs, whose ‘switiching’ took place years ago.

  • Max Thrust

    The media needs to stop the relentless and groundless anti-UKIP attacks to be taken seriously.

    • Conway

      The more they keep up the anti-UKIP rhetoric, the more determined people are to vote UKIP. It’s counter-productive for those who are running scared, but good for UKIP!

  • jazz606

    More anti UKIP propaganda from the LSE. The game’s up boys no one’s listening.

    • Mike Oddpiece

      I didn’t read anything in that post that wasn’t factual.

      • HookesLaw

        Facts!!! Don’t insult them with facts.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        All of it is non-factual. The fact that an establishment gaggle is gabbing about UKIP’s not being “taken seriously” means UKIP is being taken seriously, by them first and foremost.

        • Ooh!MePurse!

          The first four paragraphs are incontrovertibly factual. The rest is comment/opinion based on the facts, history and reasonable speculation. I happen to agree with the opinion but I’ve yet to see any convincing arguments against it. The standard of debate from Ukip supporters fails to rise above the standard of ‘you smell of poo and we hate you’.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            The first 4 paragraphs are non-sequitur, and that to a premise that begs the question, which is typical for a gaggle of establishment academics.

            Stop whining, by the way.

      • jazz606

        When writing propaganda it is important to use carefully selected facts.

    • telemachus

      The more success they have the more they are found out
      They are approaching their May zenith
      The Times today is the beginning of the end
      *
      Thank God

      • jazz606

        Wishful thinking.
        Does anyone read the Times anymore ?

      • Max Thrust

        You’re being satirical right?

  • Hexhamgeezer

    While it’s good to be taken seriously, it isn’t essential. The depth of loathing for LibLabCon is so strong for many that their credibility isn’t the key driver.

    Hey LSE guys! You just don’t get it do you!?

Close