Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The Thick of Mitt (Daily Telegraph)

Even before a candidate gets through the door of the undecided, he has to pass a basic competence test, says Alastair Campbell.

2. George's freeze wheeze (Guardian)

Osborne's proposed benefits freeze incorporates choices which betray cold indifference to hardship, says a Guardian editorial.

3. Bernanke makes an historic choice (Financial Times)

The Fed is correct in its decision to err on the side of expansion, says Martin Wolf.

4. The British are having more babies. Let's start planning for it. (Independent)

Rising fertility rates point the way to future economic growth - we need a large population to help support the elderly and bring down national debt, writes Hamish McRae.

5. If we don’t cut the deficit now, when will we? (Times) (£)

Politics is about seizing the moment, writes Daniel Finkelstein. If the government loosens its fiscal policy it will never tighten it again.

6. The politicians trying to preserve national dignity at the cost of lives in Afghanistan (Daily Mail)

All that matters now is to get British forces home as soon as can be contrived, says Max Hastings.

7. Time for a free vote on gay marriage (Independent)

There are no more excuses for not pushing ahead with gay marriage, says an Independent editorial.

8. Romney rescue plan – Cut the accountancy (Financial Times)

The governor can win if he ventures out of his comfort zone and moves beyond Republican orthodoxies, says Lloyd Green.

9. It's judicial machismo that jails women like Sarah Catt (Guardian)

The harm done to society by needlessly sending women to prison far outweighs their crime: in this, Britain is medieval, argues Simon Jenkins.

10. 'Green on Blue’ attacks must not deter us (Daily Telegraph)

A good relationship with the Afghan army is crucial to our success, says Lt Col Charlie Maconochie.

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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