UKIP’s ‘respectable protest vote’ face wearing thin

As was pointed out in the excellent book Revolt on the Right, one of the factors fuelling UKIP’s rise has been its ability to garner protest votes from those who don’t like the way the country is heading in a way that parties such as the BNP failed to do in the past thanks to their reputation. The BNP got close to breaking through at some points, but in the end it’s nasty side put off too many people.

UKIP is a very different party from the BNP, but the reason some of its senior members have in the past talked about doing deals with the BNP, and wiser ones have instead talked about how to win over ex-BNP voters, is that UKIP tries to tap into the same protest mindset too. (One that, of course, the Liberal Democrats also mined successfully at some points in the past.)

So far, UKIP’s reputation in the eyes of the voters it is trying to appeal to is that of a publicly acceptable party to support. However, the consistent barrage of nasty extremist comments from its own candidates and key party players is making that wear thin:

Ukip is facing a fresh storm of controversy as further evidence emerged of racism among its local election candidates, including a suggestion by one that the comedian Lenny Henry should emigrate to a “black country”.

Candidates have taken to social media sites to rail against Islam as “organised crime under religious camouflage” while likening the religion to Nazism, and suggesting that the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence has received a disproportionate level of attention.

One candidate for election in Enfield, William Henwood, responded to a recent speech by Henry, in which he suggested there was a poor representation of black and ethnic minorities on British television, by tweeting: “He should emigrate to a black country. He does not have to live with whites.”

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