Five of the Best

The top five comment pieces from today's papers

The Independent's Yasmin Alibhai-Brown calls for the introduction of an alternative history syllabus in schools:

[O]ur children have a right to learn about British fascism as well as the battles and ultimate victory over Hitler; they need to be taught about how this country set up the conflict in Palestine, a conflict without end, and the mistakes made by the British government when Zimbabwe was created -- mistakes that are still used by the despicable President Mugabe. Idi Amin would not have taken control of my old homeland, Uganda, without British, Israeli and American connivance. Hardly anyone over 20 in Britain knows this.

In the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson hails Samuel Johnson's literary achievement 300 years after his birth:

It took 40 Frenchmen 55 years to produce a dictionary of French. It took the Accademia della Crusca 20 years to produce a dictionary of Italian. It took Johnson nine years to produce his dictionary, and he personally wrote 40,000 entries. When the Victorians began their great oeuvre in 1888, they called it the New English Dictionary, and it was new in the sense that it was the first to presume to move out of the shadow of Johnson.

The Guardian's Jackie Ashley argues that cutting middle-class benefits such as the winter fuel payment and child benefit would be a vote-winner for Labour:

If it were still 1996, or even 2001, this would have been suicidal. The whole game was about triangulation and persuading floating, aspirational middle-class voters to back New Labour. But times have changed. Millions of these people -- though not those in the public sector -- have already defected in their minds to Cameron and are a lost cause for Labour. What would be catastrophic would be the simultaneous defection of Labour's core vote.

The New York Times's Ross Douthat compares Barack Obama's attempt at health-care refrom with Bill Clinton's in 1994 and predicts that the Republicans won't capitalise in next year's congressional elections:

The even better news for Democrats is that they aren't up against Newt Gingrich this time. Gingrich was an ideological figure, but he was savvy enough to grasp the essentially nonideological character of the public's anger in 1994. The Contract With America, remembered as a right-wing document by liberals and conservatives alike, was actually a model of center-right incrementalism, with every bullet point carefully crafted to appeal to the voters who went for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996.

In the Times, Peter Riddell says that the meetings between David Cameron and Brendan Barber are evidence of declining union power:

The unions hope they will have contacts with a Tory government, unlike their lack of access after 1979 when the Thatcher administration came to power. But that is a reflection of the unions' weakness now, not their strength. Mr Cameron is happy to talk to the unions because they are no longer a serious threat.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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