How the Liberal Democrats should respond to UKIP

Here’s what I told The Observer in a necessarily brief piece given their word limit:

The anti-establishment rage this time may have been picked up by an anti-European right-wing party, but in other times and in other countries similar protests have taken other political forms. So wise Liberal Democrats will respond to that underlying issue – and the need for a fairer, stronger economy and a more responsive political system – rather than start talking up right wing stances on immigration or Europe.

Some of UKIP’s support comes from places the Liberal Democrat should leave well alone – especially those yearning for a 1950s-style society of white men at work, white women at home and gays in the closet.

But that support which comes from feeling stripped of political power and facing economic tough times is exactly the support the Liberal Democrat should look to win over. It’s a task the party should face with guarded optimism for as the results in places such as Oxfordshire and Pendle have shown, the party is able to make progress where it listens carefully, campaigns intensively and doesn’t stop when polling day is over.

What’s your view?


12 responses to “How the Liberal Democrats should respond to UKIP”

  1. Agreed, and labour should follow your advice too. I find it v hard to understand why people vote UKIP in local elections

  2. Nearly right. The UKIP idea is that gays would be heterosexual if they did more PE, so they should be in the gym getting fit, not in the gym.

  3. We lost the protest vote – all parties have nutters – concentrate on what we should do for local people and our belief in the preamble to our constitution. Our prosperity depends on fair free and open international trade. Lets get rid of slavery and piracy and stop a few wars.

  4. The surge by UKIP is, to me, not unexpected and if the three main political parties react to it correctly, then it will be healthy for British democracy.
    The increase in support for UKIP started in the run up to the May 2012 local elections, when it was clear that hard core Conservative voters were defecting to UKIP. The complete mess-up over the March 2012 budget being the final straw for many.
    Since then, the charismatic Nigel Farage has played a blinder. His ridiculous message about the country being swamped by the entire populations of both Romania and Bulgaria come 1st January 2014, has been pitched perfectly. Keep the scare message simple and keep repeating it.
    On top of this, all three main political parties are led by weak Leaders who are out of touch with the feelings of Joe Public. I will give credit to David Cameron, he at least has some charisma compared to Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg. However, all three Leaders come across as people who have never ventured outside their own upper class social or political circles. At least Tony Blair had John Prescott as his anchor in the real world, none of the three current Leaders have their equivalent.
    In addition to this, as a Lib Dem member I have found Nick Clegg’s reaction to Thursday of ‘Lib Dem’s win were we work hard’ to be quite frankly insulting. There are lots of us who worked hard in our campaigns in 2011 and 2012, only to be completely undermined by Nick Clegg’s idiotic statements, calamitous decisions and spineless Leadership.
    Nick Clegg should now do the decent thing and accept that he is out of his depth as Deputy Prime Minster. Resign this week and allow someone else within the Lib Dems to handle this role.

  5. Daily Smash. Row over Controversial ‘Rehab Clinic’ which claims to cure UKIP Supporters. Calls for closure as nearby residents claim “clinic makes area unsafe”. Eminent psychologist Dr Heinz Sieben-Undfünfzig slams treatment based on prayer, meditation and carrot juice as “useless”.

  6. Just written a blog post on the same topic making some similar points: http://kinginkilburn.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/take-the-liberal-fight-to-ukip/
    I definitely don’t think the Lib Dems should adopt the populist, illiberal policy agenda of UKIP in response to a surge in their support which may well prove to be transient.  It does, however, reinforce my view that a clear commitment to building new social housing should be a prominent part of our platform – this may appeal to some of UKIP’s working class vote. 
    We should also embrace the opportunity to articulate Lib Dem values as polar opposites to what UKIP stands for on a whole range of issues including climate change, equal marriage and, of course, Britain’s future membership of the EU.  This would motivate our natural supporters and make life even more difficult for the Conservative party.

  7. If we stay true to our liberal beliefs, serve the public, campaign hard, we have nothing to fear. I spent a little time campaigning for a Herts County Council candidate. He was re elected with an increase in majority, UKIP came fourth. Why?, simple, he had worked in his ward for 8 years, done his stuff and was rewarded by the electorate. The comments above are correct, some UKIP supporters will NEVER support us, BUT some will, if given good reason to do so

  8. Add the UKIP and conservative vote together and you have a massive majority – something we should all be aware of.
    The current economic circumstances and strength of feeling into the reasons and causes of voting ukip are unprecedented since the Great Depression. 
    The Liberal Democrats should be the alternative and only party for people to vote as we have never been in government with a majority since Lloyd George. Therefore our strongest election message should be 90 years plus of Labour/Conservative government does not work. Why do we not use this message more??
    People want to be engaged in issues that affect them. We should champion our values on localism, decision making in the community, the environment, liberal regulation of economic affairs, re build projects in housing, making the tax system fairer, making work and pay fairer, making welfare fairer, letting people have access to free movement and building a more balanced relationship with Europe. 
    All of these are interlinked to solve the reasons why people have voted UKIP.
    We need Europe for defence, international crime, international affairs and cross border trading. We also need national parliaments everywhere to have free and liberal powers to make legislation for communities to suit communities as a result of community engagement and localism. National Parliaments should not be wary of higher power legislation that will neutralise any community legislation.
    That is what Lib Dems are good at. Getting local views, supporting local views and putting them into action. This is what will win Lib Dems votes. Not as a party that supports a centralist policy making clique in Westminster, Brussels or anywhere else.

  9. As a candidate who was swept away by the UKIP tide I think Mark is mostly right. Lib Dems worked very hard, whereas the UKIP candidate barely turned up for the count but managed to win. All in all very disheartening.
    What the article doesn’t recognise is the twin facts of the loss of soft Labour votes and the yoking of Lib Dems to Tory policies. Policies like the so called “bedroom tax” and the welfare reforms coupled with the “back to the past” education policies of Gove constantly undermine our commitment to a “Fairer Society” In 13 years of Labour government and all the years of Tory government not a single Grammar school place was added yet within a year of our coalition we’ve had an expansion of Grammar schools – totally undermining the superb Pupil Premium policy.
    The point I ‘m trying to make is that of course I understand that it is a Tory majority coalition but the effects of such policies affect our standing with our base supporters and more importantly with any soft Tories or Labour. Its no use saying we want a fairer society when we support policies that are patently entrenching advantage.
    I can fully understand why went in to coalition but I like many others do believe we have played our hand very badly from not abstaining on Tuition Fees, to flip flopping on health reform, to our total resignation to Gove’s back to the past education reforms, I could go on.
    It will take a full election cycle to work this through to see how well Liberal Democrats survive as a political force, because what is patently clear from the local elections is that no amount of good hard local work can outweigh a national perception.

  10. With no disrespect meant to Nikkhat below, i spent a small amount of time cappaigning for a Lib Dem County Cllr in Herts who was returned with an increase in majority and UKIP trailed in fourth place. So, different responses in different areas

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