segunda-feira, 28 de março de 2016
What comes after UKIP?
LETTER FROM LONDON
What comes after UKIP?
The Euroskeptics’ secret post-referendum plan for the party.
By MATTHEW GOODWIN 3/28/16, 6:23 AM CET Updated 3/28/16, 10:06 AM CET
LONDON — Britain could vote to remain in the EU but face an altogether new rebellion afterwards.
That is the hope of some of Britain’s most senior Euroskeptics who are already making plans for what could happen in the event that they fail to fulfill their dream of a Brexit. Though opinion polls suggest the race is neck-and-neck — the current “poll of polls” puts Remain on 51 percent and Leave on 49 percent — some of the most influential voices in the Brexit camp are already exploring how to continue their fight should they be defeated on June 23.
Amid a Euroskeptic movement divided into warring factions, influential campaigners and donors are beginning to talk openly about how — should they lose — they could emerge from defeat with a new movement that has much broader appeal. Those around the UK Independence Party (UKIP) have been inspired in part by the Scottish National Party (SNP) that despite experiencing defeat at the 2014 referendum went on to force a complete realignment of politics in Scotland in the 2015 general election.
Influential campaigners and donors are beginning to talk openly about how — should they lose — they could emerge from defeat with a new movement that has much broader appeal.
Those who talk about trying to emulate the Scottish model also share an awareness that in its current form UKIP, which mobilized 13 percent of the vote at that same general election, has taken Euroskeptics as far as they can go. Pointing to how the party has continued to tread water at between 10 and 15 percent in opinion polls, some of the most senior donors and strategists are now actively talking about how to use Britain’s EU referendum as a springboard to launch a more professional successor movement that can reach the 20-25 percent territory.
As one of Britain’s most senior Euroskeptics told me: “UKIP needs to rebrand itself and change after the referendum. There is a huge opportunity coming. You could have that SNP effect where you lose the battle but win the war. I am keen to look at how we can reposition UKIP to take full advantage of that.”
Some point to the sheer quantity of data that Brexiteers will hold after the referendum — detailed information on hundreds of thousands of voters who have either registered their support for Euroskeptic platforms or voted for UKIP during a succession of national election campaigns. Leave.EU, an organization with close ties to UKIP, now has 600,000 fans on Facebook, more than the Conservative Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP. It is also revealing that they are now employing the same social media analytical teams that are scraping data for Ted Cruz and others in the United States.
UKIP needs to rebrand itself and change after the referendum. There is a huge opportunity coming — senior British Euroskeptic
One idea floating around is to remodel the 23-year-old UKIP, currently third in the polls, along the lines of the populist Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy. Instead of a conventional branch-based model, supporters would be organized around “online democracy” and given far more power than UKIP members currently hold. Whether Nigel Farage, who has long held a tight grip over his party, would be content with such a set-up or even be involved is unclear. Either way, prominent Euroskeptics talk of wanting to build a younger, more active support base. “UKIP is seen as an old people’s party,” said one influential donor, “whereas most of the opposition to the EU on the continent is younger.” There is some truth to this. Unlike the ‘Freedom Parties’ in Austria and the Netherlands, both of which are currently sitting comfortably in first place in the polls, or the National Front in France, which is gearing up for the 2017 presidential campaign, UKIP has made little headway among middle-aged and younger voters. Nor has it emulated Marine Le Pen’s inroads among women.
There is also no doubt that Britain’s current political climate would be receptive to a broader movement anchored in cultural conservatism, even if the country votes to remain in the EU. Beneath the specific referendum question lie deeper currents that have been eroding loyalty to the main parties.
Over the past 50 years the proportion of voters who feel only weakly attached or not attached at all to Labour and the Conservatives has surged from one in five to more than one in two. Britain has become less welcoming to the old parties and more open to new ones.
Beneath the specific referendum question lie deeper currents that have been eroding loyalty to the main parties.
Last year Cameron secured a surprise majority but once you account for turnout his power rests on support from just one in four adults — hardly a compelling mandate. Meanwhile, 25 percent of those who went to the polls voted for somebody other than the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats — the highest figure on record. The collapse of the Liberal Democrats, who show no sign of recovery, further pushes open space for an anti-Westminster alternative.
It is easy to spot cultural concerns, too. Since Cameron’s reelection last May, public unease over immigration has reached record levels. For nine consecutive months voters have identified this issue as among the most important facing Britain. Today a striking 47 percent rate immigration or race as the most pressing concern — it is comfortably in first place, 10 points ahead of healthcare and 24 points ahead of the economy.
Regardless of the referendum result British society is dominated by intense public angst over national identity and borders. Cultural anxieties now trump economics, a reality underscored daily by new public fears over the role of Turkey and Islam in Europe, the refugee crisis and national security.
That these issues hold the potential to further expand support for Europe’s radical right can be seen in the Netherlands and Hungary, where a cultural narrative focused on the defense of Western values is cementing support for Geert Wilders and Viktor Orbán.
Britain’s blue-collar workers have long felt economically left behind by globalization and cut adrift from the established parties that overlooked them in favor of the professional middle-classes
These openings are distinctly unlikely to evaporate were Britain to remain in the EU. Why would they? If anything it is already possible to identify voters who will continue to feel profoundly anxious over the direction of British society.
On the right, Euroskeptic social conservatives will feel betrayed by Britain’s decision to remain and by Cameron who unlike a majority of his supporters is campaigning against Brexit. In polls, typically 48 percent of Conservative Party voters and 60 percent of Conservative Party members back Brexit. There is no reason why, after a Remain vote, these older voters, many of whom will have already voted for UKIP in local or European elections, will suddenly drop their opposition to the EU, free movement and concern that net migration into Britain has now surpassed a record 300,000. For Cameron and his successor, the challenge of keeping disgruntled Tories in the Conservative tent is about to reach all new heights.
Meanwhile, on the left the picture is similar. After the referendum manual workers who share this Euroskepticism are likely to feel even more disconnected from middle-class Labour politicians who will have spent the referendum campaign praising the exact things that make these struggling voters feel so under threat — European integration, a global market, free movement and rapid social change. As elsewhere in Europe, Britain’s blue-collar workers have long felt economically left behind by globalization and cut adrift from the established parties that overlooked them in favour of the professional middle-classes. And like social democrats across the continent, Labour is feeling the full force of this disconnect.
Over the past 20 years the percentage of working-class Britons who reject the idea they are represented by Labour has rocketed, from 7 to 30 percent. This growing dissatisfaction helps to explain why, by 2015, it was UKIP not Labour that held the most working-class electorate in British politics.
Across Europe this combination of social conservatives, insecure lower middle-class, self-employed and blue-collar workers propelled populist forces — from the Danish People’s Party to the French National Front — into positions of serious influence. Meanwhile it is often social democrats, having failed to offer workers a convincing reply to their identity concerns, who are the biggest losers, as we saw again in recent elections in Germany.
The slow decline of Britain’s center-left translates into the biggest opening for a new movement since the initial breakthrough of Labour in the 1920s.
In Britain it could have been even worse for Labour. While Farage talked of “parking his tanks on Labour’s lawn,” UKIP embraced the free market while its libertarian leanings fueled accusations that it wanted to privatize the National Health Service, an institution cherished by the working-class. Unlike the economic protectionism espoused by, say, Le Pen, this prevented UKIP from mobilizing its full support among the working-classes. Were the new movement to press the same buttons as radical right parties in other European states — populist attacks against banks, tax evaders, corporate cartels and the excesses of globalization — then it could be a very different story.
Today blue-collar voters who last year failed to rally behind Labour show little appetite for Jeremy Corbyn, already the most unpopular opposition leader in recent history. The slow decline of Britain’s center-left translates into the biggest opening for a new movement since the initial breakthrough of Labour in the 1920s.
People often argue that Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system offers protection from the much larger populist and radical right revolts that are engulfing Europe. But this ignores the deeper shifts that are making such a realignment look increasingly possible. For these reasons it could be only a matter of time until the secretive plans to build a new populist army translate into a far more impressive breakthrough.
Matthew Goodwin is professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent and a senior fellow at Chatham House.