All the latest polls appear to be showing UKIP coming second in the upcoming European elections. We could end up with as many as 25 MEPs. There are several reasons for this: Farage’s charisma, Camron’s mendacity, Miliband’s anonymity, Clegg, and the extraordinary effort put in by the rank and file members week in and week out. A bit of money from Sykes will certainly help, as will the good old British sense of mischief. The mischief aspect, or protest element, call it what you will, derives from the fact that the European Parliament has no power. In other words, people can vote UKIP safe in the knowledge that no harm can be done. If this is the case, then why are we doing it?
My mother asked me not so long ago why we were even standing for a Parliament that we wanted rid of. I found myself trotting out the standard lines about how we were standing to highlight the deficiencies with the EU I had a slight unease when I said this because, like it or not, the European Parliament gets hardly any media coverage in the UK and so our MEPs will have little opportunity to highlight these deficiencies. Farage does a splendid job and gets just about as much coverage as we could ever expect, so where is the democratic return by having another 24. Sure we may get odds and sods from Helmer and Nuttall etc, but they will be tucked away so far back in the news agenda that they will become irrelevant. To prove a point, ask a stranger to name one UKIP MEP other than Farage.
Moreover, we are at risk of exposing ourselves as opportunists by having MEPs being prepared and willing to take the salaries and assorted expenses that we rail against. And taking that money from the tap while knowing that we can achieve nothing.
Neither is it truly honest for us to say that ‘a vote for UKIP at the European elections is a vote for a referendum’, when that is not something that the European Parliament can deliver. At best it could claim to be the desire to have a referendum, but that is precisely what Conservative voters will believe, so it could really be a vote to have a different type of referendum.
Talk of raising our profile is, I feel, not wholly true either. With our results at the locals last year, and with Diane James so narrowly missing out on becoming our first member of a parliament that really matters, our profile was as high as it has ever been, and I am not sure that the Euros will help us that much, particularly given the misgivings that some voters have, as I outlined above. Furthermore, the Euros will take our local efforts away from Westminster and Council campaigns. Additionally, the members are being asked to cough up more money for the European campaign diverting funds away from 2015.
Where does this leave me? The only campaign that can do anything about the core objectives of UKIP is next year. The General Election is the only chance that we have to change anything, and the other parties know this full well; they have begun their 2015 campaigns already, be it Labour’s energy freeze, the Conservative’s pensions Triple Lock or the Lib Dem’s Mansion tax. They are all ignoring the Euros, because they know that they do not mean anything, leaving UKIP left behind. By all means have fun with the Euros, have a laugh and crack a bottle when the results come in, but remember that it is just a sideshow. The real campaign has to be for the 7th May 2015, and that date is fast approaching.