On 3 May UKIP and groups to its right are likely to face a well-deserved drubbing in the local elections.
UKIP will be standing in only a fraction of the seats they stood for in 2014, the last time most of the same council wards were up for election. In 2014 UKIP got 16% of the vote and won hundreds of new councillors. This time round UKIP’s support is likely to continue to drop, as it did in the 2017 general election, when it got under 2% of the vote. Since then they have been through two more leaders and have shown little sign of revival.
The newly energised Labour Party, organising and campaigning, which has won back some of the disaffected working-class voters who voted UKIP on the basis of its faux anti-establishment credentials. But that is not the sole, or the main reason for UKIP’s decline.
The vote for Brexit and a shift to the right by the Tories under Theresa May has cut the political ground from under UKIP. The Tories are adopting much of UKIP’s policies and rhetoric.
A new ultra-Eurosceptic party, Democrats and Veterans, led by former UKIP leadership candidate, John Rees Evans, is also standing in these local elections.
On the fascist far right there is the welcome news that the last BNP sitting councillor is standing down. Their decline has been even more dramatic. As recently as nine years ago the BNP won nearly a million votes and had 50 councillors, a Greater London Authority member and two MEPs. Now the husk of the BNP is standing a handful of paper candidates with no hope of winning.
A new party of the far right, the “For Britain Movement”, is standing in just 15 seats.
For Britain was founded by Anne Marie Waters, who was also a candidate for the leadership of UKIP. She called for UKIP to become a party organised around anti-Muslim populism and demagogy. She won 21% of the leadership vote in September 2017 and then left to form For Britain. Hope Not Hate, an anti-racist group, characterise the group as “a British attempt to build a ‘counter-jihad’”, that is a counterpart to parties like AFD in Germany and the PVV in the Netherlands. A party which will focus on scaremongering about Muslims and opposition to Muslim migrants.
Hope Not Hate rate For Britain’s electoral and organisational prospects as poor. The left and anti-racists definitely needs to be vigilant about For Britain.
They have managed to unite much of the far right with some of the more populist UKIP activists. Tommy Robinson, previously of the EDL, is involved and the party seems to be well funded, if their website and the glossy leaflets they are using in Leeds are anything to go by.
In Anne Marie Waters they have a leader with a profile and an unusual biography — she started out as a Labour Party, LGBT and women’s rights activist. However she has decisively moved to the anti-Muslim right, working with street racists from around the EDL as part of a failed attempt to replicate the Pegida movement and its mass demonstrations against Muslim refugees in Germany.
For Britain’s policy platform is explicit about opposing what it calls the Islamification of Britain. They vilify millions of British people from Muslim backgrounds and more recent migrants as an existential threat to “British culture” and blame Islam for the fringe who are terrorists.
The labour movement needs to confront and defeat organised racists in elections, through a combative Labour Party fighting on the ground against the spread of their ideas.
We need to mobilise to drive them from the streets when they organise racist demonstrations.