UKIP started the year with 11 MEPs, 3 Lords, one Northern Ireland Assembly member, a few Councillors scattered across the country, average voting intention poll ratings of 10%, and a membership driving up above 20,000 following a respectable showing in a Westminster By Election in Rotherham in November by Jane Collins. The only political party with a growing membership, UKIP was beginning to win the argument on immigration.
In January, we had David Cameron’s “Referendum” speech and very few voters were fooled by it. With a promise of a Referendum in 2017 IF the Tories were re-elected in 2015, people could see right through it, and UKIP made good political capital out of it, starting to push our average poll ratings up 1% a month after that at the expense of both Labour and Tory shares.
A snap By-Election in Eastleigh caught us out a bit as on 4th February Chris Huhne resigned following his guilty plea on being re-arraigned for perversion of the course of justice. The local Liberal Democrats knew this was coming, the election was called for 28th February, and they hit their postal voters within a day or two. Our By Election Campaign Team, led by Lisa Duffy, sprung into action as soon as possible with Diane James as candidate. And, on election night, the piles of votes clearly showed we had won the ballot box vote, but the postal votes tipped the balance to the Liberal Democrats. However, this showed the voters it was time to take UKIP seriously.
On a personal note, that same day, this author joined UKIP. One small step for man: I was reading the papers online at work, once again LibLabCon were getting me angry, yet the hopes for UKIP in Eastleigh buoyed me. Breaking the habit of a lifetime, I joined a political party, UKIP of course, and within a minute or two, I was a member. All over the country, people driven the same way I was were joining UKIP, the membership safely headed towards 30,000.
In March we had the Spring Conference in Exeter. Nigel opened his speech asking the faithful for an “Eastleigh roar”. Towards the end he issued the rallying call for the 2014 Euro elections: “It is my aim and my conviction that we turn the tremor that we caused in British politics in Eastleigh into a national earthquake by winning the European elections next year.” He did mention the importance of winning Council seats to build a base on which to campaign, but his precise ambitions there were numerically unstated.
Then we were into the County Council elections campaign across the English shires, the City, Unitary and District Councils taking a break from their annual calendar of re-electing one third of their members. The polls kept showing UKIP support growing, we had 73% of the seats contested, but no one really knew how well we would do. The declaration of results on the night of 2 May and the morning after was a cliff-hanger, and we exceeded expectations ending up with 147 UKIP County Councillors and around a 25% share of the popular vote, which Nigel admitted far exceeded his wildest expectation of 20%.
UKIP Headquarters had a massive backlog of membership applications, and once on top of this it was announced that Party membership had broken through the 30,000 barrier and was heading for 31,000.
As the Summer progressed, while the polls showed support for us ebbing away a little, Councillors of other parties across the country defected to UKIP, not just one at a time, sometimes in twos and threes.
In August, Parliament was recalled to vote on whether to go to war over Syria. Once again, UKIP set the agenda, Nigel Farage coming out solidly against committing more British gold and lives to a foreign war, encouraging Labour to stop their prevarication and 30 Tory rebels to vote against the motion.
Onto September, after we had cast our votes for our MEP candidates, we then had Conference, in London to celebrate our 20 years. A special logo, a 20th Birthday cake, and some special events of celebration were all planned to make this the conference to top all others. A massive media presence gathered and we were beginning to get our serious policy message out to the media. Then, Godfrey blew it for us: the collective impact of his fridge joke and poor handling of Michael Crick led to Nigel having to tell Conference at teatime about removing the whip from Godfrey Bloom, taking us down to 9 MEPs after Marta Andreasen’s defection to the Tories earlier in the year. As someone present, I can tell you that after they had their “story” on this, the number of “lizards” shrunk from hundreds to a handful.
October brought the announcement on our MEP selections. A pleasant surprise was in the number of women candidates high up in the list: Jill Seymour top of the West Midlands, and Jane Collins top in Yorkshire, Margot Parker 2nd in the East Midlands, Louise Bours 2nd in the North West, Janice Atkinson and Diane James 2nd and 3rd in the South East and Julia Reid 2nd in the South West, twelve ladies, 20% of our candidates without a women’s shortlist in sight, representative of the number of female members.
Through November, UKIP continued to command an increasing share of the vote in local By-Elections. For example in both Cumbria County and Allerdale Borough, the UKIP candidate took 36% of the vote coming 2nd in the Seaton seat, and in the Horbury and South Ossett seat of Wakefield coming 2nd with nearly 33%. Overall, our averages in seats where we stood were above 20%, across the whole country, north and south, town and country, exceeding what the pollsters say.
Finally, December, with the mass immigration issue coming to a head with the imminence of 1 January 2014 and the expected arrival of hordes of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants, UKIP continues to win the mass immigration debate, but we have also moved onto the winning the debate on the impact of it on employment and the economy. The Christmas icing on the cake has been Nigel Farage’s support for Britain to take its fair share of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, while Cameron was in a flat spin over his inability to restrict the economic migrant flow from 1 January.
We end the year with nearly 33,000 members, 233 1st & 2nd Tier Councillors and high hopes for 2014, and to the promised earthquake in British politics. How many Romanians and Bulgarians will arrive on our shores? Will the closure of coal-fired power stations lead to power cuts caused by other than high wind and flooding? How well will we do in the May 2014 European elections? Whatever happens, 2014 is bound to be an exciting year for UKIP and its members.
In Comments, UKIP Daily invites you to make your predictions for 2014.