On May 30th I wrote a response to former UK Independence Party (UKIP) treasurer Stuart Wheeler who claimed that the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, could not lead the EU referendum campaign. And obviously, me being totally right, I can’t believe we’re still debating the point.
Anyway, my narcissism aside, I ran through a lot of the “how to cross the finish line” arguments in that piece, so I won’t be dealing with that here. The party got 4 million votes and voters trust UKIP on European issues, which is why they won the 2014 European elections. Turnout, timings and activism are all addressed here.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying Nigel is the be all and end all of the referendum campaign. All I’m saying is that he should be on the front line with other voices, fighting for leaving the EU. People should be asking to share platforms with him, contrary to what Lord Lawson – the new head of the faltering Matthew Elliott-run campaign – asserted this morning. And here’s all you need when rebutting people who claim “Farage is toxic”:
Polling company YouGov conducted a study of over 11,000 Britons (that’s a really large sample, for those unfamiliar), which placed the party leaders on the political spectrum based on where voters perceived them to be. Corbyn was seen as nearly twice as left-wing as Ed Miliband, who was a little to the left of Gordon Brown, who was a little to the left of Tony Blair, who was perceived to be just about on the centre-right.
And just to the right of Blair? You guessed it, Prime Minister David Cameron, who has former Tory leaders Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard around the same position. But what you might expect – that UKIP leader Nigel Farage was as to the right of Cameron as Corbyn was to Miliband – is not reflected in voters’ perceptions. Nigel is in fact only marginally to the right of Cameron in the minds of voters, and let’s remember, Cameron won a majority government at the general election just a few months ago.
So those who would argue that Farage is seen as too heavy-handed, right-wing, and therefore toxic, have no leg to stand on when they make these claims. Well, they have one: their own biases and Westminster establishment thinking.
In fact when you go in and look at the detail of the poll, more people perceive Nigel to be on the left than they do David Cameron. So arguably, he has a greater claim to some of the left-wing ground that will inevitably need to be won in order to cross the line on referendum day. The disparity in views between Labour Party voters and potential voters, versus Labour Party members (“selectorate”) is especially noteworthy.
Seventy-nine per cent of Labour members think Nigel is “very right wing” but only 41 per cent of potential Labour voters agree. This says more about how out of touch Labour is as party with its voter base – and will damage them come the 2020 election and UKIP’s Northern strategy.
On average, Nigel gets a right wing ranking of 62 out of 100, while Mr Cameron is at 53. Hardly a massive gap. By comparison, Corbyn gets a left-wing rating of 80, and he’s the Leader of the Opposition.
Indeed Mr Cameron is seen as more right-wing than Nicola Sturgeon is seen as left-wing (46/100). He is to the right what Natalie Bennett is to the left in the eyes of voters (54/100). Isn’t that something?
So next time you hear, especially those on the right, claiming “Farage is toxic”, just remind those muttering smugly (see below) that the country elected a Conservative majority government, and Nigel is scarcely seen to be to the right of the Prime Minister. Unless of course, they’re willing to claim that their pro-EU PM is “toxic”?