Could there ever be a UKIP/Labour pact?

7th January, 2013 6:06 pm

In all of the coverage of how much Cameron hates Farage, and vice-versa (all of which is undoubtedly true) there was one detail in the UKIP leader’s interview with Decca Aitkenhead that has gone strangely unremarked on. In amongst his attacks on Cameron, one line jumps out:

It is a measure of Farage’s bombastic confidence that he acts as if the very idea of dealing with David Cameron is beneath him – “There’s no way we could work with that man under any circumstances” – and suggests a pact with Labour might be on the cards instead, “if Jon Cruddas’s view prevails within the party”.

Now that’s a rather remarkable statement, not least because on current polling the Labour vote and the UKIP vote combined makes up nearly 60% of the population, and becauseJon Cruddas’s views are currently rather prevalent in the Labour Party, as he’s writing the next manifesto.

But could a Labour/UKIP pact really happen…?

Let’s be sensible – of course it couldn’t (I tend to agree with David Cameron’s assessment of UKIP as many Labour members do, and not  without evidence). The very idea is ludicrous, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it. What the UKIP leader is doing is signalling where he sees his party going.

Firstly, it shows just how far away from the Tories Farage is, to even suggest in passing or in jest a link-up with Labour. He doesn’t care how much it annoys them – he’s rubbing their face in it. He has little or no interest in appealing to Cameron, he wants Cameron to appeal to him.

Secondly – and most importantly – it shows that Farage understands his own electoral coalition. It isn’t just a rag tag bunch of former Tories. If it were he’d be worried about alienating them by suggesting any form of relationship with Labour. The UKIP leader knows that there’s a sizeable number of former Labour voters backing his party at present, who feel that for whatever reason they can’t back either of the major parties.

Both of those facts should concern Cameron and the Tories, but the second should worry Labour too. The Tories aren’t the only ones missing out from the UKIP surge, and the impact could hurt Labour too – especially in the European elections where a UKIP win is not inconceivable.

There will never be a Labour/UKIP pact. It’s unthinkable, crazy and laughable. The two parties, and their worldviews, are miles apart. It would tear the party apart. But it’s really not so long since some Tories were saying the same about a coalition with the Lib Dems. Just because something is an awful idea does not, unfortunately, mean it is impossible – however unlikely it might be.

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  • Monkey_Bach

    UKIP isn’t a serious political party. It’s an overblown, one-issue pressure group as right-wing, if not more right-wing, than the Tories themselves; the idea of some kind of unholy pact being drawn up formally between Labour and UKIP is, frankly, one for the birds not one for primates.


    • JoeDM

      UKIP have a full set of policies. Mostly these are along the Thatcherite end of the Tory spectrum which is why UKIP is very attractive to people who have economic liberalism as a central part of their ideological makeup. The idea that Labour could even think of talking to UKIP utter nonsense. Farage is just having some fun.

  • Dave Postles

    1 When was the statement made – 1 April 2012? 2 What inferences can be drawn about the current Labour philosophy?

  • I think the mistake that the mainstream parties make with UKIP is judging them by their own standards. UKIP are attractive to many simply because Nigel Farage (the party is really just a one man band – remove Farage and their popularity will disappear) is the anti-politician many people crave. I think Farage is popular for the same reason Boris is – he doesn’t pretend to be something he is not, and as a result gives off an air of authenticity. At a time when most people are sceptical as to the truthfulness of politicians, many will find Farage a breath of fresh air. Even if they don’t agree with him on certain issues, they will like the appearance of honesty. On top of that, his views on Europe and immigration are fairly mainstream, and he articulates what many people think. There’s no use turning noses up at it, people just agree with him.

    Beyond Farage though, UKIP members motivated enough to stand for election come from an odd ragbag. The truth is, every party has some nasty and/or bonkers people in them – and UKIP attract their fair share. But I think to label them all closet racists is just a lazy way of dismissing them and their appeal so as to avoid tackling the real issue. I’ve heard people in Labour say the most appalling things about others, but I don’t think it reflects the majority. The same assumptions should be applied to UKIP. I stood against UKIP in 2010 (actually against two UKIP candidates, long story), and both were really nice, decent people – just a little eccentric.

    All parties should attempt to understand UKIP’s popular appeal, not dismiss it or make silly and unfounded assumptions. If they do that, then the need for coalition partnership with them will never arise.

    • Daniel Speight

      Jonathan I think you are right about Farage’s popularity. It is because he comes across as not being part of the political class, however false this perception might be. In the main political parties we are stuck with these clones who seem so far removed from real life.

      • The word ‘clone’ is certainly appropriate – I’ve sometimes used the word ‘zombie’, as in ‘New Labour Zombie’. However, ‘clone’ is far better as it conveys the drab uniformity that characterises many of the Sainsbury-led Blairite lemmings – indeed, the whole of the Progress website reads as if written by one exhausted insomniac.
        ‘Zombie’ at least offers the possibility of erratic and dangerous excitement – qualities that would surely thwart corporate ambition and prevent accumulation of the plumply remunerated non-executive directorships that seem popular with our feverishly ambitious political careerists.

        Indirectly, this relates to one of Farage’s less well known opinions: that there is a genetic dimension to poverty*. When expressed politically this usually means that spending on welfare is pointless – poverty is seen to be a function of biology, as is inequality.

        *A view expressed to Owen Jones:

        • AlanGiles

          An alliance between Labour and UKIP sounds as bizarre and esoteric as one of those nightmare relationships that are the very stuff of comedy – from the surreal “Goon Show” to the awkward pairings of Basil and Sybil Fawlty or Harold and Albert Steptoe. Sadly there would not be as many laughs.

          I rather agree with Jon and Daniel – Farage seems a bit different because he says what he thinks and believes (even if I don’t think and believe the same things) – unlike those politicians of the three main parties all poured from the same mould (and they’re getting mouldier!). For example in rightly voting against the Welfare reforms today, Labour are going to “demand” compulsory employment for the long term unemployed – without explaining where these non-jobs are supposed to come from during a period of non-growth in a contracting manufacturing and service sector and a rapidly disappearing retail sector. They know very well the current government will not create jobs in the public sector, and because Labour are so terrified of Middle England and what the Mail and Sun might say, they know they wouldn’t dare suggest a rapid increase in the public sector.

          There are no short term answers – in the long term we should make it far easier for people to retrain at any time in their lives – not just when young, but as people will be working till they are 70, into the sixties, but more and more further education is tailored to younger people, for example. Something along the lines of the old “G.I. Bill” in the States where people could be given the facilities and wherewithall to go off and completely change their skills.

          This is the problem – modern politicians are so shallow and so desperate to fill up the 24 hour news channels, they only think about todays headlines and the outcome of the next election: what is needed is long-term solutions, that, like an insurance policy will reap long term benefits. If Labour (or anyone else) “demands” people are found jobs which don’t exist, all that will happen is that they will only be employed for as long as the state subsidy lasts, which is usually a matter of months. labour should have learned that lesson from the various schemes Mrs thatcher concocted in the mid and late 80’s – something for (nearly) everybody but nothing for long.

          A few months stacking shelves in a supermarket followed by another lengthy period on JSA would be soul-destroying and even more destructive than life-long learning and the opportunities it could bring.

          • aracataca

            As has been made clear countless times- and in line with what happened in respect of the future jobs fund- the guaranteed jobs would be created in the voluntary and public sectors.

          • AlanGiles

            If you recall, at the time of the last election the Conservatives and their press allies made great play of the fact that “non-jobs” had been “created in the public sector”. The LibDems have naturally colluded with that ide, and it carries some weight with the public who think that public sector jobs are “non jobs”.

            That is not my view, but any job creation scheme would be very short-term and the money would run out – and when the money runs out, like those who came before in the 80s and 90s they would be back on the unemployment scrapheap again.

            A quick fix for three or six months is not a real answer – it might win a few votes in the short term, but in order to keep such a scheme sustainable there would have to be enormous sums of money shovelled in on a regular basis. I think the FJF frankly was greatly over-rated and in truth it ran for such a short time it would be difficult to draw long-term conclusions.

            Facts have to be faced – because of current and previous government policy most jobs come from SMEs and private companies – and I repeat, where are the jobs?. Even with a generous subisdy, is any manufacturing company seriously going to produce items they can’t sell, or retailers keep open stores that are losing money?. The reason so many companies are increasingly turning to the web is because overheads are smaller and less staff are needed, and there are a limit to the number of web-designers the country can support.

    • Redshift1

      I think this talk about Farage himself is so over-hyped. He’s a clever man and he says the right things for his party to progress but he’s not exactly going to win any name-recognition contests with the average voter in the street. It is UKIP not Farage that’s got a level of popularity.

      Amber Star’s comment above is actually not wide of the mark. Their appeal is obvious. Immigration and Europe are cross-class issues that give them a small share of support in most communities. They can then enhance that by tailoring it to the demographics locally.

      Fortunately, for the mainstream parties what UKIP do lack is decent grassroots organisation.

  • robertcp

    I have thought since the 1980s that a pact between Labour and other left of centre parties is a good idea. That is still a discussion worth having despite the current Con-Dem coalition. A pact with UKIP is not worth discussing.

  • No. I can’t think of any policy where our views or values are at all similar. I do understand their popular appeal – but sometimes you have to do what is right, not jump on cheap populist bandwagons

  • Amber_Star

    Farage’s Party is seen as an off-shoot of the Conservatives & can’t attract Labour voters who abhor the Tories; if Farage gets publicity for his ‘pact with Labour’ comment, he might pick up some socially conservative, anti-EU, ‘blue’ Labour voters.

    It worked for Salmond in Scotland – remember the SNP used to be the Tartan Tories; now they claim to be a beacon of progressiveness. Farage is very much a Salmon style figure. Labour needs to either completely ignore this or handle it very deftly.

    • John Reid

      The referndum party,didn’t put up candidates against anti EU laobur members in 1997 like Tony Benn and Dennis skinner,are there any anti EU blue laobur voters you were telling me blue laobur was just a dfferent name for new labour,
      Although I recall Former labour M.P robert Kilroy silk was A Ukip M.E.P

    • aracataca

      In my experience a number of Labour people in Scotland compare the SNP with the Fib Dems, ie in a more prosperous area they are ‘right wing’ while in a less prosperous area they are ‘left wing’. I can vaguely see how this kind of comparison works.I am less able to see how the comparison between Farage and Salmon works because notwithstanding his populism isn’t Farage uniformly right wing whether he’s standing in West Ham or Weybridge?

      • Redshift1

        Uniformly rightwing in some sense yes (immigration, Europe, etc) but if you read their literature in Rotherham it was more than willing to use messages more akin to the left about jobs, manufacturing, etc.

        They aren’t stupid at least when the party nationally is running their campaigns (which admittedly it can’t do everywhere).

        • aracataca

          OK I haven’t seen their literature in Rotherham. However, in more general terms isn’t UKIP identified with the right in a way that the SNP and the Fibs aren’t?

          • Redshift1

            There is clearly a distinction there yes.

  • Redshift1

    To put this in the most cynical terms possible…

    It’s totally an attempt to warm Labour voters to UKIP, to expand their popularity because let’s face it, the only kind of genuine benefit of actually having a pact for both parties would be to fuck over the Tories – but it’d have to be private to not undermine either party’s support base. The very mention of it therefore is a demonstration of it being a non-starter.

  • Nigel Farage certainly understands his electoral coalition – as you say Mark. UKIP grows stronger by the day so long as Labour supporters are content to believe it is just a bunch of thatcherite wing of gin and tonic tories. It is more than that. A recent poll shows that 40% of UKIP voters disagree with Osbornes cap on benefits and tax credits and 43% want an increase in public spending – completely at odds with what Farage and his party wants.
    Farage understan the potential of the working class vote – why else do you think he has appointed the straight-talking scouser Paul Nuttall as his deputy? UKIP are a threat to the Conservatives but it doesnt mean that we can sit back and watch them eat away at their vote and deliver Labour victory at the polls in 2015. They are a threat to Labour too and we must meet that challenge now if we are going to avoid another disastrous European elections result in 2014.
    Kevin Doran

  • I’d be the first out of the door if the party ever hooked up with UKIP. Why ? Take a look at their manfesto on workers rights – none – maternity pay – statutory minimum. Return of selective education. Return of corporal punishment. Introduction of education vouchers for private schools. An insurance based NHS. Single flat rate of tax There is NOTHING UKIP and the Party have in common at all.
    Except, perhaps, if you are a Progress member.

  • Labour leaders do themselves no favours by just defending the EU as an empirical balance sheet that’s good for UK trade.

    As other posters have already pointed out UKIP and the Tories both have a neo-liberal perpective that resented the EU becoming a more consensual entity by introducing social and citizens rights dimensions in the late 80s and 90s. Their aim is to make the British workforce ‘more flexible’ by denying them even basic rights enjoyed by other workers across the EU.

    Labour, even under Blair, challenged John Major when he wrapped himself in the flag to oppose the social chapter and support for the Tory position plummeted.

    As for UKIP attracting Labour voters sick of cheap East European immigration. Bare in mind this is not a big issue for workers still enjoying collective bargaining, standard T&Cs and training opportunities. In other words excessive EU immigration is a result of the UK’s deregulated labour market, something UKIP and the Tory Europhobes are very keen on.

  • Farage reminds me of Churchill.

  • Chas Lauren

    There are many Labour (and LibDem and Tory) voters who believe in the process of democracy and a long overdue referendum, in that sense a Labour UKIP coalition is not inconceivable, it’s actually beneficial to the process of democracy itself, we have local govt councils which are nothing more than fronts for profiteering Capita, it’s the same with the EU, a new coalition would be welcome by at leat 60% of the nation which is more than the current coalition enjoys.

  • Pingback: Britain’s next government will be a coalition of parties that hate each other – Quartz()


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