The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

America reacts.

Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Arizona, was shot and critically wounded yesterday in an attack in Tucson that left six others dead and 12 injured. The gunman, a 22-year-old man named Jared Lee Loughner, has been been arrested.

President Obama described Giffords as "an extraordinary public servant".

Michael Tomasky, who writes about American politics for the Guardian, issued what he called a "bs alert" last night. He reminded readers that Giffords's office windows had been broken in the summer of 2009, when the debate over Obama's health-care reforms was at its most virulent. We should keep an eye open therefore, he argued, for:

any signs of coverage that deplores the shooting but says something like, "Of course, there IS a lot of anger out there, so . . ." You won't hear that today. But keep an ear out for it Sunday, and Monday. As if there's a rationale for something like this. Just keep an ear out.

Alex Hannaford, also on the Guardian's website, noted that a comment left on Sarah Palin's Facebook page appeared to confirm Tomasky's worst fears: "This will be another avenue for gun control groups to further their sick agenda." Meteor Blades, writing at the liberal Daily Kos blog, sees Gifford's shooting as the American right's incendiary rhetoric made flesh:

Those whose violent, eliminationist rhetoric has polluted the airwaves and other media for the past couple of decades, ramping itself up a little more each year, especially with the arrival of an African American in the White House, are, of course, denying that the shootings of a congresswoman, a judge, a child and bystanders on a street corner in Arizona have anything to do with their savage words. No surprise. One thing they're good at is refusing to accept any responsibility for the consequences of this murderous talk, whether it's Timothy McVeigh blowing up a federal building or Scott Roeder assassinating a doctor.

Andrew Sullivan live-blogged the reaction to the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, and observed that much of the language used by the shooter in a video testament posted on YouTube is "like a parody of a Ron Paul supporter".

Meanwhile, the right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds fulminated against liberals who, he claims, have seen in the shooting an opportunity to save Barack Obama's faltering presidency by "defaming his opposition". Other conservative bloggers and commentators have singled out for particular opprobrium Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's liberal talking head, who took to the screens last night to make what one would have thought was an uncontroversial plea to his fellow Americans to "put the guns down".

You can watch Olbermann's nine-minute comment on the Giffords shooting here:

 

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture 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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