Nigel Farage is certainly the protest vote leader of choice at the moment. It’s not a surprise that there should be such a person, nor even that it’s not the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. After all Lib Dem leaders have often had that role in the past. But that it’s UKIP highlights the failures of two other parties – the BNP and the Greens.
During part of the last Labour government, the BNP started to make serious inroads in some areas where it managed to expand beyond its extremist racist core into a wider anti-politics protest vote. Hence the both sincere and laughable defences offered up by some BNP candidates when caught in the media spotlight that, ‘I didn’t know the BNP was racist’. What did for the BNP was its rotten heart and soul, accompanied by a disastrous period of infighting and a vigorous fight back by different mainstream parties in different places.
The Green’s failure to make headway is more striking for being more puzzling, as Jonathan Calder has commented on before. They had a big success in 2010 with their first MP in Caroline Lucas, the political backdrop is one that should be friendly to people who question how capitalism works and the combination of Liberal Democrats in government and Ed Miliband’s limitations as leader means there should be space on the centre-left for the Greens to prosper. Instead, the party has continued to bump along at the bottom in the polls, with elections results varying from indifferent to poor.
It is often harder to make an environmental case in grimmer economic times, but even so, one of the most important political stories of the last few years is the one that isn’t – the absence of a rise of the Greens.
UPDATE: To clarify – Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party of course. My reference is Caroline Lucas is about why their most prominent figure (higher profile than their leader I think) and first MP hasn’t led to a Green surge etc.