Nigel has failed to win a seat in Parliament, and has resigned. This has marked the end of what was a mixed, but ultimately disappointing night for UKIP. On the one hand, a massive increase in the vote nationally, more than tripling what the party won in 2010. Furthermore, UKIP candidates established themselves as the opposition party in many constituencies, and saved deposits, once so rare even in strong seats for UKIP, are now routine. But let us face facts. UKIP has failed to win the multiple MPs it was so confident of picking up. There will be no group of UKIP MPs, as the party and pundits predicted, and even bitter UKIP opponents conceded. Just one. The question is why.
One thing must be stressed. It is absolutely not because of anything UKIP did wrong, much less the candidates and campaign team. If pundits talk of recriminations, there will be none. There are only recriminations when you did something wrong, and UKIP did nothing wrong. So why did UKIP fail to win multiple seats? The answer is seven words long.
The Prospect of an SNP Labour Coalition.
The SNP made no secret of their desire to be a coalition partner with Labour. They were confident that they could be the king makers, and help Miliband take the keys to Number 10. In exchange, they salivated at the prospect of extracting billions of pounds from the London Treasury to take back to grateful voters in Scotland. The SNP have no interest in balancing the budget, cutting the deficit or anything else remotely adult and responsible. Instead, they want to grab money and take the loot back to their voters. In the event of an SNP-Labour coalition, make no mistake about it the SNP would have been anything but a junior partner. The tail would wag the dog very hard every budget, and English taxpayers would have been the ones who got the bill.
The wealth producing regions of South East England, and the middle-class swing seats dotted throughout the country, are where British elections are won and lost. These voters had ummed and aahed to the pollsters for weeks before polling day, thus it looked like we were set for a coalition. But at the moment of truth, with a pencil poised to mark a cross, the face of Nicola Sturgeon loomed large in the imagination of the voters. Famously, many voters in 1992 changed their mind at the very last minute, meaning the prediction polls of a Kinnock victory did not materialise. Similarly, many taxpaying voters in the swing seats changed their mind when they realised what SNP bullying Miliband would mean for them. No one wanted to be the last person to turn off the light if Sturgeon got to decide how much tax they had to pay.
And it is this background that cost so many UKIP potential MPs their seats. All over the UK, including the seats where UKIP had targeted, people had this horrible realisation, some perhaps only seconds before they actually voted. They may have liked UKIP, but they disliked the prospect of Sturgeon ruining their household income even more. Some UKIP MP candidates lost by a small margin as a result, including most significantly, Nigel Farage.
In short, UKIP did nothing wrong in this election. I repeat, nothing wrong. But even when a party as in touch with popular opinion as UKIP, and led by a candidate as household name as Farage is on the ballot, something else loomed large. That something else was economic ruin. Miliband would have been bad enough on his own, with economically ruinous talk of strangling banks and energy companies. But Miliband with an SNP gun at his head would have been even worse. So bad, it does not bear thinking about what state we would have been after five years of it. Millions of voters, including many in seats that could have conceivably turned purple, decided not to take the risk of a Miliband-Sturgeon tag team so voted for someone besides UKIP. The pundits speak of how the SNP have wiped out Labour in Scotland. But they wiped away UKIP’s chance of Westminster seats as well. Whoever succeeds Nigel as leader will have a big job on their hands.