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After Rotherham, Ukip is now a national populist party – a magnet for anger at the British establishment

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Tim Stanley
London Telegraph
November 30, 2012

I guess Rotherham’s social services are going to have their work cut out after last night’s key by-election result – it seems there are far more children with Ukip voting parents than previously expected…

Ukip placed a confident second, taking their highest ever share of the vote in a by-election. You might say that this was just another case of a small, motivated band of voters letting off steam in an off-cycle contest – but it still represents a significant breakthrough. Ukip is only supposed to be a middle class, ex-Tory vote – the golf club fringe of conservatism. But Rotherham isn’t Tunbridge Wells; it’s northern and working class. By doing so well in a traditionally Labour area, the party has proven to its sceptics that its support is truly national. The populist revolt is bigger and wider than many anticipated.

Of course, Ukip was helped by the fostering scandal that rocked Rotherham and, briefly, made everyone feel a dash of sympathy. However, its charismatic leader, Nigel Farage, has also done a great job of exploiting long term memories of Labour’s incompetence and short term anger at David Cameron’s vacillating centrism. By establishing itself as the fourth party, Ukip has started to replace the Lib Dems as the “go to” vote for those protesting the status quo.

And forgive the Lib Dems, father, for they no longer know what they’re doing. In Rotherham, they actually placed eighth – somewhere behind the English Democrats, who are basically Ukip without the love of yachting. Overall, Rotherham was a damning rejection of mainstream, centrist politics. Although Labour retained the seat very comfortably (which one would hope in such a safe area during a period of opposition), Ukip was way ahead of the rest of the pack in second place, the racist BNP came third and the Marxist Respect placed fourth. The Conservative Party managed only a dismal fifth. The centre doesn’t seem to have broken so much as evaporated.

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This article was posted: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:08 am

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