CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Too many have been disabled by benefits (Times) (£)

Two million people rely on incapacity benefit. Iain Duncan Smith says that he expects a quarter of them to be fit to return to work immediately.

2. We disabled people aren't shirkers (Guardian)

Alice Maynard says that disabled people like her want to contribute fully, but the cuts could push them into lifelong joblessness.

3. The wrong policy for Lib Dems to oppose (Independent)

The leading article argues that reform of university funding is overdue. The Liberal Democrats should reconsider their position, as long as social diversity is protected.

4. Don't punish students for others' excesses (Times) (£)

A huge rise in fees would only make rich universities richer. Aaron Porter maintains that a graduate tax is the answer.

5. The perils of giving in to pester power (Independent)

The only way for the government to deal with the coming storm over cuts is to stand firm and refuse to budge an inch, says Mary Anne Sieghart.

6. State lambasts west while citizens give thanks (Financial Times)

The Nobel Peace prize for the Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo could have powerful ripple effects, writes Geoff Dyer.

7. Gang up on China - that'll be value for money (Times) (£)

If they have a mind to do it, says Bill Emmott, G20 members can ease the currency wars and pull the leading culprit into line.

8. Tea Party supporters want to 'take their country back'. To where? (Guardian)

The candidates that Tea Party supporters back have actively worked to undermine their aspirations and interests, says Gary Younge.

9. America should fund Israeli settlers to leave (Financial Times)

Blanket US support for Israel should be used to create new incentives for settlers to peacefully evacuate Palestinian territory, writes Diana Buttu.

10. The left should recognise that equality is undesirable (Guardian)

Julian Glover suggests that a fair society may be one in which people have the right to strive for inequality.

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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