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Bursting Labour's bubble: Nigel Farage's UKIP appears to offer clarity of language and purpose, which appeals to Labour's core voters (photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

How do you deal with a problem like UKIP? Let's start by defining the problem. It's not so much UKIP that's the problem, but the conditions which have allowed it to become a political force. And it's not the first time in the history of political parties that this kind of thing has happened.

How do you solve a problem like UKIP? First, stop feeding the beast and then make sure you do something about the conditions which allowed this to happen.
Let's cast our mind back to the SDP in the 1980s, the nationalist parties and the SNP in particular, and maybe the Greens next. It starts with a specific issue and, before you know it, gathers momentum and attracts anti-establishment protest votes as well. The main political parties start by feeling "first past the post proof", then go into panic mode before they acknowledge that they had better sit down and work out why the electorate is abandoning them.

In the case of UKIP there was an interim phase, best described as "let's ridicule the party and then hurl abuse at the people who vote for them." Labour thought it was just a problem for the Tories, which at first it was and to some extent still is — but the UKIP vote has now eaten into the electoral territory of all parties.

What were the conditions which created UKIP?

The role of the big political parties is to bring together large groupings of people who broadly share a set of values and turn these principles into actions. They are organisations as well as movements and an often overlooked function is to bring into the fold the extremes on the Right and the Left of the political spectrum. It used to be the case that from their broad ideological principles voters could roughly predict the direction of policies. Labour, committed to the collective and internationalist, would stress equality of opportunity as well as striving for fair outcomes. The Tories, defenders of the nation state, would place more emphasis on individual responsibility.

But now that we all subscribe to social market economics, and the political process has become more managerial than ideological, the definitions have blurred. Vote for me because, whatever it is, I'll do it better/more cheaply/more quickly than the other lot. Whether it is Labour, Conservative or the Liberal Democrats (who themselves are a coalition of economic liberals to the right of the Tories and social liberals to the left of Labour), they have all increasingly shaped their policies on the basis of what the other side is doing, rather than following their own core values and beliefs.

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Richard Ferguson
November 3rd, 2014
8:11 AM
Took on Rupert Murdoch and the banks.... W Let's ignore the inconvenient truths that your party was deeply attached to Rupert Murdoch for over a decade and the problem with the banks was largely your party's c.reation. Nice try Gisela, some good points made in the article but you lost it by reverting to Labour type.

Charlie 3
October 30th, 2014
3:10 PM
Gisela, The modern day Labour Party is the triumph of the polygentsia and apparatchic over the tradesman. An Etonian who has dug a shell scrape in the CCF have done more manual labour than the whole front bench of the Labour Party put together.

Laurence
October 30th, 2014
11:10 AM
The premise of this whole article is flawed. UKIP is not 'a problem', it is the solution - to the dire state of the UK today and the betrayal of the British people by the 'political classes'!

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