UKIP on the London Assembly? What Farage and the Politics Show didn’t say…

Yesterday’s BBC Politics Show interviewed UKIP leader Nigel Farage as part of an item asking whether the party could become a “serious force in domestic politics”.

The programme is heavy on sarcasm and scepticism about UKIP’s ability to win seats on UK bodies.

You can watch the segment from about 28 minutes into the programme.

The item namechecks the 2009 Euro elections and goes on to mention Farage’s General Election failure and the winning of just 7 council seats in this month’s local elections.

However there’s an obvious electoral success – and subsequent defeat – which got ignored. In 2004′s London Assembly elections, UKIP won 8.18% of the Londonwide list vote, securing two seats on the Assembly.

It lost those seats when occasional MayorWatch contributor Damian Hockney and colleague Peter Hulme-Cross followed Robert Kilroy-Silk out of the party and into Veritas.

By the time of the 2008 elections they’d left that fledging movement and formed One London.

Even if Damian and Peter had remained in UKIP and not split the vote by offering a rival home to its voters, it’s unlikely the party would have retained even a single seat.

In 2008 UKIP gained just 46,617 votes – 1.93% of those cast – while One London received just 3,430 (0.14%). Even combined the vote wouldn’t have been enough to see them re-elected.

What was behind such a dramatic fall in votes? I’ve always suspected it was nothing more complex than electoral timing.

European Parliament elections are held every five years, the last set were in 2009. The set before were held on 10th June 2004, the same day as the Mayoral and Assembly elections in London.

UKIP voters were more incentivised to go out and vote in a set of elections where they could vote against an institution they dislike and would like either to reform or abolish.

How do we know the motivation to get out and vote was the Euro elections and not holding Ken Livingstone to account? In London UKIP got 12.3% of the Euro vote, more than a third higher than their Assembly vote share.

Current AMs who served with Damian and Peter speak highly of their work and the effort they put into their time on the Assembly.

The pair claim credit for being the first Assembly party to warn about Olympic cost overruns and warned Ken Livingstone that embassies would “revolt” against an expanded congestion charge.

They also warned back in 2007 that the capital’s SME’s would be blocked from bidding for Olympic contracts by complex European Union procurement rules.

Balance and accuracy suggests the Politics Show should have reflected UKIP’s past electoral success in London but his members should be asking why Farage himself didn’t take the opportunity to mention it.

He did confirm the party is preparing for the Assembly elections and that the “PR element” of the Londonwide list gives them some electoral chance but he missed a high profile chance to point out they’ve served at City Hall before.

That was a mistake which could cost the party dearly in BBC coverage during next year’s elections. Damian has written previously about the BBC’s allocation of airtime for smaller parties.

There’s a strong case to be made for a party which previously held seats on the Assembly not being treated as part of the lunatic fringe, but that argument has to be made by those affected if it’s to have any force.

Comments

  1. Damian Hockney says

    Unlike the programme, this is a very balanced summary of UKIP’s position in regard to the London Assembly. When we were elected, Peter and I always realised that our seats were down to timing (and in particular though to the party’s very sensible bringing on board of Robert Kilroy-Silk, who provided a kind of balance and media presence). We always realised the impossibility of winning back our seats in 2008, mainly because of the media restrictions and limits on spending which meant that we were barred even from sending a leaflet to every home. Not many people realise that the restrictions are so great on both that you are effectively barred from publicising what you believed you may have achieved. The other parties have the oxygen of millions of pounds worth of free “advertising” on BBC and to a lesser extent the press. Fine, but a smaller force should not be barred from this and also then denied the right to pay to achieve equality. As One London, we had to turn down funding totalling several million pounds because we were barred from spending it! A leaflet to every home costs double the spending limit, and sadly the official dull booklet is censored. I think that all the other parties on the Assembly very generously realised that we were serious in wanting to play a role. Unusually in politics, they took us as they found us, almost from day one. We were both struck by this, and I think it helped the image of UKIP. Serving on the London Assembly also reinforced in a deeply practical way the limits of what can and cannot be done and that this applies to all involved. The problems of small parties and the inevitable differences within led us on a path which we would not have chosen. We did informally discuss the possibilities of joining forces with UKIP at the Mayor and Assembly elections, but it proved difficult. Alternative voices, even those with whom you disagree, are very useful on bodies like the London Assembly and can sometimes say things that others want to say but cannot. Although Nigel and I had serious differences, I really wish him well with trying to get seats on the London Assembly. And in fact, UKIP’s General election performance may have won no seats but it did in fact produce a very substantially increased vote and all the other parties are aware that those votes may have tipped the balance for or against them. For the first time, there is evidence that voters of other parties actually switched, which is very similar to what happened gradually between the early 60s and late 70s for the SNP in Scotland. Before, much of UKIP’s vote had come from people who either did not usually vote, or who were totally disenchanted for specific reasons but wished to vote (and of course those with a very strong belief in the baleful impact of the EU upon its member states).

  2. Peter Hulme Cross says

    ‘when … Damian Hockney and colleague Peter Hulme-Cross followed Robert Kilroy-Silk out of the party and into Veritas’

    This statement is incorrect. I did not join Veritas. Having been elected as UKIP I felt I should remain a member of UKIP. That is why Damian and I renamed our Group ‘Veritas-UKIP’ in May 2005 after the General Election. However UKIP complained that we had done this without their permission and refused to renew my membership of the Party when it fell due in June 2005. After Damian resigned from Veritas, we formed ‘One London’ in September 2005.

    Apart from this, Martin Hoscik’s article is correct and I agree with what Damian has said above. I think it is fair to say that we did bring a different point of view to the Assembly and its Committees.