In the past year Nigel and Ukip won support but not power. Photo: Getty Images
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Ukip are the least powerful nationalist party in Europe

Since the crisis, coalitions of the right and populist right have become the norm - but under the British electoral system, Ukip are shut out.

Ukip may have dominated the political agenda last year, and become a part of politics, but they are the least powerful established nationalists in Europe.

Take Macedonia. It is run by nationalists – more specifically, the ‘Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity’ – who have repaved Skopje, its capital city, with nationalist monuments.

43 per cent of Macedonians voted for the party last year, and they hold 50 per cent of the seats. Ukip won 13 per cent of the vote here last month, but hold just 1 seat, or 0.2 per cent of those available. Only France’s National Front can match that level of futility.

Ukip have less direct influence on government than nationalists in Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Ireland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Greece, Luxembourg and Armenia.

Ukip won fewer seats for their votes last month than the Lib Dems ever won in the decades they spent being ill-served by Britain’s system. In Christmas we estimated that the party have missed out on nearly 1,250 seats since 1945, compared to the number they would have won under a proportional system.

Nigel Farage’s party, and Nigel Farage, are now suffering in the same way. They would have won around 85 seats under a proportional system.

If we ever did move to a proportional system, and their level of support holds, Tory-Ukip coalitions would be our most form of government. The two parties won 49.8 per cent of the popular vote last month.

For a long time, voting reform was a way for lefties to keep the Tories out. That would have been the case in 1983 (and every post-war election), if the Lib Dems have won seats proportionally and partnered with Labour. But now such a system would serve the Tories.

A Lab-Lib bloc would have less than 40 per cent of the vote. To approach a majority they would need to partner with the SNP and Greens as well, and form the large, multi-party blocs that most of Europe is used to.

But with the Tories in power, and Labour nostalgic about the landslides First Past The Post can deliver, proportional voting seems a distant prospect. And that means Ukip is likely to remain Europe’s least effective nationalist party for years to come.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage