This is a work written by academics. They spell out their own attitude to UKIP in the introduction as “refusing to condemn without first consulting the evidence”. They have clearly been given unprecedented access to the party and those who run and lead it.
The time frame covered runs from early 2014 to the middle of 2015, taking in the European elections of 2014, three significant by-elections and the general election of 2015.
In the 2010 general election UKIP received 3.1 percent of the vote, in 2015 it received 12.6 percent. In between it registered 26.6 percent in the election to the European Parliament, coming top of the poll and winning 24 seats. The details of this ascent are carefully documented here, with countless graphs, charts and tables of statistical data.
So far, so good. However, the strength of the work, the first hand contact, is also its major weakness. Time after time the motley bunch of reactionaries, xenophobes and outright racists who make up the organisation are allowed their say, either on or off the record.
At no point are their ideas seriously challenged, either by the authors or anybody else. This is especially true of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, with everything taken at face value, even his short-lived “resignation” following the general election. There is only one mention in the whole book of a “stop UKIP” campaign and then only to repeat slurs emanating from the party itself.
While the support for UKIP is exhaustively weighed and measured, nowhere is it seriously analysed. What we are left with is tired academic dogma. Great pains are made to locate UKIP’s support among the “working class”; however, who the authors mean by this is not clearly defined.
The lesson for those with progressive politics is, apparently, to focus on Europe; paying off the deficit; and, of course, immigration. These are supposedly the main concerns of what the authors identify as Britain’s “left-behind” voters. Interestingly, the only party to gain a higher proportion of votes from this group in 2015 was the Scottish National Party, who took the opposite view to UKIP on all three issues.
This shows that the growth of organisations such as UKIP, while needing to be taken seriously, is not inevitable. Where people were offered an alternative, such as in Scotland, UKIP lost the argument. That is not to say that it is the end of the matter, particularly if the SNP fail to meet the hopes of their supporters.
Similarly, UKIP do much worse in areas where people from different backgrounds live and work together, particularly in London.
The sad thing about this book is that, having rigorously consulted the evidence as promised, not only does it fail to condemn but it fails to say anything much of note at all.