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.