newstatesman.com commended at award ceremony

How newstatesman.com was runner up at a prestigious awards ceremony plus a far from quiet American i

A few weeks ago I may have modestly mentioned being nominated for the British Society of Magazine Editor's web editor of the year award.

Well this week my wife, self, magazine deputy editor Sue Matthias and our web developer Dan Coppock trooped along to the Park Lane Hilton to see the gongs doled out.

As it happens we were pipped at the post by the editor of Empire's website but were specially commended which I suppose means we were the runners up.

That's not bad when you think how much dosh all our rivals for the award have to run their websites. We saw the result as a recognition of all the work our small team has put in.

Now in a couple of week's time it will be the first anniversary of our website launch.

You will notice a few changes taking place in the coming months – proof we've no intention of standing still despite our successes.

In the meantime we will continue to publish the usual raft of online content. Next week look out for articles on Chavez, house prices and America's new breed of student radicals plus the usual mix of blogs and news.

Why the irritating burst of energy? Well perhaps because this time last week I'd just got back from a week in Umbria where the sun shone, the temperature hovered around 18 degrees celsius and the olive harvest was getting underway.

It's a beautiful part of the world with a liberal scattering of medieval hilltop towns, fantastic food and great wine.

The Italians can be incredibly hospitable and – clutching a small baby – we were lavished with attention and kindness almost everywhere we went.

Our only error was a day trip to Florence. Even in November it was overrun with the sort of tourist that has to be shepherded everywhere and is only really interested in Michelangelo's David to the extent of being photographed by a famous sculpture.

With that kind of tourist you always get the hustlers. We witnessed the same silly game of cat and mouse between the police and the hawkers of counterfeit goods that I'd seen on my last visit in 1989.

In a restaurant for lunch we met a woman from Virginia who believed Italy and France weren't separate countries, thought Nottingham was in London and whispered – on discovering we were British – 'oh you have those Muslims there'.

Curiously she was very preoccupied with the image Americans have abroad. She felt an injustice had been meted out when her fellow countrymen had been branded loud. "You should hear the Italians talking."

We couldn't, she was drowning them out.

What was intriguing about the conversation was the extent to which she projected her own ignorance on to others.

At one point she started telling us how artists in America struggle to get by. I made some remark about how the Federal government used to pay sculptors and painters under FDR's New Deal.

She replied: "Oh we don't have that anymore."

Well I never.

It was relief to get back to our tiny Umbrian hamlet and watch Midsomer Murders dubbed into Italian. Now do you understand my pain?

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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