Is Cameron’s soundbite giving publicity to a bunch of unknowns?
These three men are the leaders of a grouping that in the heady days days of 2004 look set to make a big impact on UK politics.
Their party, UKIP, had come third in the UK Euro Elections in June 2004 beating the Lib Dems and coming only six per cent behind Labour on votes. Three months later they beat the Tories into for the third place slot in the Hartlepool by-election.
Yet it’s doubtful if even PBC most assiduous political anoraks could put more than one or two names to the Roger Knapman, Mike Nattrass, and Nigel Farage.
For UKIP, as became apparent in the General Election last May, are almost totally irrelevant.
For they failed miserably to capitalise on their Euro success less than a year earlier and nationally their vote was just 2.2%. In spite of all the hype, and wild predictions by some contributors to PBC, they were half a per cent off the vote share that Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party chalked up eight years earlier at the 1997 General Election.
For the UKIP leadership made a mega-mistake and upset their main financial backer – the Yorkshire entrepreneur, Sir Paul Sykes. The money tap was turned off and they found themselves without the resources to make an impact. To cap it all their only recognisable personality, Robert Kilroy-Silk, left in a huff when he couldn’t become leader and it’s been all downhill since.
That was until two days ago and the latest memeorable sound-bite from Tory leader, David Cameron. His local radio interview description of UKIP members as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists mostly” has hit the headlines and put the anti-EU party into the spotlight.
The response of Nigel Farage, left in the picture, was to call for an apology saying “we will not accept being called racist by Mr Cameron or anybody else.”
The result is that in the run-up to the local elections UKIP has managed to get itself on the media agenda for the first time in eighteen months. They’ve got a peg on which to hang a story and, no doubt, they will try to spin it out.
With the Tories desparately keen to get above the 40% vote share level to re-build momentum a few switches to UKIP might be damaging.
It seems that there is fixation in the Tory party about UKIP and certainly Cameron does risk losing some support at the fringe as he tries to capture the centre ground. But the best strategy is to keep quiet and not doing anything that gives them publicity.