So he’s gone [Has he? Really? Gone, I mean? Like for good? – Ed] Who knows. But for now, Nigel Farage is planning to edge out the rest of his free Belgian beer time in his job quietly in Brussels. What comes after that?
Well, the Telegraph is pitching Paul Nuttall and Steven Woolfe, two working class lads from Livepool and Manchester respectively. Nuttall in particular, has been instrumental in the growth of the party in working class areas in the north of England.
It’s been part of a drift away from the libertarian norms of a few years ago when the party played with the tough on benefits rhetoric of the Tory right. Jonathan Wheatley found in his research that on economic grounds UKIP has moved ground on domestic policy:
Looking at the position of party supporters with respect to these two dimensions, we see that Conservative supporters stand to the right of the political spectrum in economic terms and Labour and the Greens on the left, as traditionally envisioned. But we also see that UKIP supporters are, in fact, marginally to the left of centre – slightly to the left of Liberal Democrat supporters.
Where it is distinct is on the communitarian/cosmopolitan axis. This is what’s distinguishing populists from mainstream parties of the centre-left all over Europe. Left/right issues are slowly washing out of mainstream politics (even as people hoped that it might be washing in for the first time in the Republic).
Note where the Labour party is? It’s to the left of UKIP but even the Corbynite version of the party is floating up on the cosmopolitan end of the vertical axis. If you look at where the new Corbynite joiners are coming from it is not in the north, which facilitated the recent rejection of the EU.
Many of them are joining in big metropolitan areas that already were massively Remain, or in areas of the south of England where Lib Dems finally got smashed for six last year and where Labour has a below zero chance of picking up new parliamentary seats.
Anthony Painter depicts a fairly dark scenario coming up…
…whether Jeremy Corbyn survives or not, Labour is in a state of violent convulsion. The causes are structural as much as about the actions of this leader or that. The Labour working classes have split into remain and leave.
The remain working classes see benefits in international trade, travel and cultural exchange. These aren’t, as is the caricature, just metropolitan liberal types. They are more diverse than the leave working class for sure.
But what drives them is a sense that workers are better served as part of a bigger international order than being locked in a nationalistic cage. That in itself is an expression of patriotism.
Leave working classes are polar opposites. They see cultural, economic and personal threat from openness. They feel it diminishes them and takes a way a sense of agency – or control. The majority of this group stopped voting Labour long ago. Most of these stopped voting altogether.
Those that didn’t are attracted to UKIP. Had UKIP’s leadership not been a public school prat they might have gone UKIP en masse. They may still do so. The point is that the working class – Labour’s alleged base – is irrevocably split. Moreover, there is no going back now.
The schism is permanent.
I’m not as sure as Anthony is about that last, but broadly speaking this is what’s driving the turmoil inside the Labour party. It has very little to do with Corbyn v the Blairites and everything to do with what kind of party Labour must become in order to hold its shaky alliance together.
It won’t be easy. The referendum result may aid UKIP’s northern insurgents, but it provides a poor roadmap for Labour. Just becoming a pro remain party is as likely to split the party in two and leave it a very long way short of power (just look at what happens in these Buzzfeed gifs).
Liberal optimists believe that Farage’s step down may be the end of UKIP. That’s a possibility. Nuttall may have working class Scouse grit, but he has none of the charisma of the old boss. But in it’s current parlous (nay, ridiculous) state, Labour’s difficulty, is UKIP’s opportunity.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty