After the election… The UKIP…

For all its detractors (and I don’t count myself as the greatest fan of its ‘Brixit’ policy) UKIP does something most mainstream parties in Britain are struggling with.

They connect with the ordinary man (and I suspect it is mostly men, to be honest) in the street, and they speak in a language they understand.

They may get dismissed as saloon bar politicians, but in England they know how to put on a show with a sense of drama that has long since disappeared from the mainstream game.

Ian Parsley noted in a blogpost recently that UKIP thrived on speaking for the British/English nationalist wing of the Conservative Party.

It has brought them serious rewards. If they can bag as little as 6% of the national vote next year, they can seriously skew the outcome of the next Westminster election.

However in Northern Ireland (and Scotland and Wales) penetrating an already saturated market has been tricky. Our local nationalisms are already very well catered for.

In England Farage’s iconic pint of beer signals ‘ordinary bloke, good company, decent listener’. In small ‘c’ conservative Northern Ireland it has a more ambiguous status.

Nevertheless, they picked off sitting MLA David McNarry Strangford, having already recruited up a locally popular councillor Henry Reilly from Kilkeel.

This was his second time out having run in the 2011 Assembly elections, when he picked up 2,332 votes. The party has moved up to a total of 9,311, with three councillors elected.

In the Assembly they’ve taken a maverick and given him backing, purpose and a little polish. I dare say the change suits both himself and his former party, the UUP.

The increased profile (he actually got it into a BBC studio last night over the Pastor McConnell row) will stand him in good stead for a run at the South Down Assembly election.

The acrimonious implosion of NI21 also significantly weakens the prospects of sitting MLA John McCallister. Politically they are poles apart, but geographically close.

They would be well advised to look for UKIP hotspots elsewhere in the constituency, before anyone else gets their act together and comes looking for it.

The step up from membership of the new super council to the Legislative Assembly is a lot less daunting than it was under the old 26 council model.

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