Socialist Worker

Ukip leadership contest deepens splits within the party

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2574

Ukip members in 2015 - in apparently happier times

Ukip members in 2015 - in apparently happier times (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The racist Ukip party is set to announce its new leader today, Friday, as the party’s conference begins in Torquay.

The contest has seen the infighting within the party escalate. One Ukip MEP said it was “more intense, vicious and dirtier than it’s ever been”.

Vicious Islamophobe Anne Marie Waters was favourite to be the next Ukip leader as the conference began. She is backed by former leader of the Nazi English Defence League, Tommy Robinson.

Together they launched the racist Pegida UK group and Waters set up an anti-Muslim website, Sharia Watch UK.

When she stood in Lewisham East in 2015 Waters called for the closure of mosques, deportations and an end to immigration from majority-Muslim countries.

There are six other leadership candidates except for Waters. And whoever wins, Ukip will remain a right wing party intent on whipping up racism – and riven by division.

But a victory for Waters would likely lead to big ructions in the party. Former leader Nigel Farage has threatened to set up a new party. Many members have said they will leave – including 18 of Ukip’s 20 MEPs.

Former leader Paul Nuttall deselected Waters as a Ukip candidate in the 2017 general election, saying her views were “way above and beyond party policy”.

The leadership contest was sparked after Nuttall stood down following this year’s general election. Ukip won 1.8 percent of the vote with 594,068 votes.

Just two years earlier Ukip came third in the general election with 12.6 percent of the vote. Some 3.8 million people voted for it.

Resigned

The party has been in crisis since Farage resigned following the vote to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016.

Leading members are split on whether the party should try to appeal to more traditional Tory voters or harden up its racist message. And the referendum result left confusion about what the party’s focus should be.

Many of those who backed Ukip switched to the Tories. Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll found that 57 percent of people who voted Ukip in 2015 voted Tory this year. But some hope that the Tories’ Brexit woes could help Ukip recover.

Former Ukip donor Arron Banks said Theresa May’s recent Brexit speech in Florence could breathe “new life” into Ukip.

Ukip’s Brexit spokesperson Gerard Batten declared, “Her intention is for us to leave the EU in name but not in reality. Ukip will now be invigorated to continue its fight to take Britain out of the EU. The fight resumes.”

The crisis facing the Tories, and the racism they whip up, could hand Ukip a lifeline. And even if Ukip and its offshoots lurch from crisis to crisis, the racism and Islamophobia they thrive on will remain. We need to keep up the fight against racism.


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