Get Nigel Farage talking about Ukip and its political strategy, and you’ll soon notice how he uses the phrase ‘New Ukip’ to describe the party’s more targeted approach. It is a sign that, unlikely as it may seem, Farage is a moderniser.
Farage knows that Ukip needs MPs at Westminster if it is to become a permanent presence on the political scene. He also knows that to win these seats it is not enough to just appeal to disillusioned Tories. So, Ukip trying to broaden its reach, to win over disaffected Labour voters even at the risk of alienating some of its existing support.
The party made some inroads into the Labour vote during the European Election campaign with its talk of how immigration had held down workers’ wages and its argument that only withdrawal from the EU could stop mass immigration. But it knows that come the general election, Labour will try and win these voters back by attacking Ukip as a ‘Thatcherite’ party who’ll charge you to see your GP. So, Farage is trying to inoculate Ukip against these charges. Expect to see him repeatedly stressing how Ukip is committed to a universal NHS that is free at the point of use. Also note how on the Andrew Marr show he denied that Ukip was going to be a new Thatcherite party.
But as I say in the column this week, the challenge for Farage is to modernise Ukip without making it look like just another political party.