UKIP is tapping into ‘left behind’ Britain

UKIP is offering disengaged and disillusioned Britons a return to a less challenging, more cohesive past.

UKIP is offering disengaged and disillusioned Britons a return to a less challenging, more cohesive past

One UKIP result – Douglas Carswell’s resounding victory in Clacton-on-Sea – came as no surprise. The other – the extremely close result in Heywood and Middleton – was less expected.

Taken together they present a serious challenge to the political mainstream. But what is the nature of that challenge?

Political and media debates about the rise of UKIP have tended to focus on whether and to what extent they are splitting the Conservative vote. However, this week’s events hold broader lessons for all political parties around the nature of political disengagement in the United Kingdom.

This is reinforced by new IPPR research on class identities in Britain. Polling conducted to assess the views of different groups in British society on both their own and the country’s future challenges the view that UKIP’s support is primarily being driven by a disaffected and ‘left behind’ working class.

The survey confirmed that the white working class (defined in terms of occupation) are a large political constituency for UKIP. Half of those who said they intended to vote for them in the next general election had a white working class background.

However, nearly one in three of those who said they intended to vote Conservative or Lib Dem fell under the white working-class category, as did 43 per cent of those who intended to vote Labour.

Labour still overwhelmingly receives the largest portion of white working-class support (41 per cent of the white working class as a whole in our poll). Yet rising support for UKIP among the white working-class means that Labour is the party with the largest base to potentially lose.

IPPR’s research also showed that disengagement from the mainstream political parties is not isolated to working class voters. Only 31 per cent of Britain’s white working class think democracy in Britain works for them, but Britain’s middle classes (the ‘ABC1’ group) are only marginally more optimistic (43 per cent).

Well over half of respondents to our poll believe that the political system in the UK does a bad job at addressing their problems (68 per cent of Britain’s white working class and 59 per cent of the middle classes).

Meanwhile, a staggering 86 per cent of white working class respondents and 78 per cent of middle class respondents believe that politicians don’t understand the lives of people like them.

These figures should be cause for profound alarm across all parties.

There is a clear danger that politicians will respond to these developments with ever more extreme promises to slash immigration to levels that are unachievable in a globalised world characterised by relatively high and steady levels of migration.

Yet as Douglas Carswell has acknowledged himself, the UK cannot succeed without the skills and drive of those who come to the UK to make a clear contribution.

It is also unlikely that the introduction of restrictionist policies designed to dramatically reduce migration levels (which would involve further cutting the number of international students and substantially curtailing the right to family reunion), will on their own address the growing disconnect between the British public and the governing class.

Part of the reason why this is so is because immigration is an issue not just because it involves numbers of people coming in, but because those numbers are real people who go on to live in real communities. Some of the impacts that arise are beneficial, but not all. And the negative ones, IPPR would argue, are driving disaffection quite as much as the management – and level – of inflows.

A more effective approach therefore would involve supporting local communities that are struggling to adapt to change, and promoting inclusive public services and political processes that can re-engage and give confidence in the future to all British citizens. Whoever is in power has to help local areas to develop their own strategies to ensure that we can all live together more easily in a society increasingly defined by high migration and diversity.

For that is the reality now and into the future for Britain. UKIP – at its extremes at least – is seeking to offer disengaged and disillusioned Britons a return to a seemingly less challenging, more cohesive past. The mainstream parties mustn’t be tempted down that path but rather must set out a new vision – one which engages with Britain as it is but offers more hope for those who feel alienated from it.

Alex Glennie is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research

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74 Responses to “UKIP is tapping into ‘left behind’ Britain”

  1. Guest

    keep on spewing the myths, the hate,,,

    And how dare workers have access to working benefits! That you now claim to pay tax, at this late stage…

  2. Guest

    That is down directly to your Coalition’s economic policies, which has depressed wages. You are instead choosing to raise hate against the Other, and to try and put him our of business by charging him tarrifs to export.

    Labour’s vote is not crossing over to UKIP, it’s going to “not voting”, as Labour moves right. The polling data is clear on that.

  3. wj

    I still am a carpenter – and will remain so until a late age if I am lucky.

    I personally couldn’t care less what class I inhabit, although I love my job and the people I work with (I note that you seem to have an intellectual disdain for such beings. “shrug”) – I just wonder what area of life you inhabit; I just wonder what gives you the idea that you are always right and everybody else wrong.

    Where do you get your sense of superiority from – you seem to believe that you are intellectually better and much cleverer than the rest of the people who comment on LFF.

  4. Guest

    Of course you argue for only your views and your racism to be allowable, as you use a few extremists as an excuse (not that excuses your PC bigotry) for your views.

    No surprise you were out there marching, either.

  5. Guest

    So why are you so concerned I’m out to take your job? I’m not trained as a carpenter.

    And you are assuming I share your PC bigotry, which I do not. I am addressing you, and only you. I don’t share your certainties either, or your superiority – you’re projecting.

    You’re looking for things which are not there, as you backtrack on class. There’s a reason I always talk about wealth, not class.

  6. steve gawronski

    And ??????

  7. James In Footscray

    Patronising indeed.

    ‘UKIP is offering disengaged and disillusioned Britons a return to a less challenging … past’

    So UKIP voters just can’t come to grips with complexity? They couldn’t possibly have a considered opinion? No wonder people are voting UKIP when progressives say they’re a bit dim.

    ‘A more effective approach therefore would involve supporting local communities that are struggling to adapt to change, and promoting inclusive public services and political processes that can re-engage’

    Isn’t there already a political process that has engaged people? They don’t agree with these changes and so have voted against them?

  8. Ian Duncan

    Tory policies may be depressing wages now but it could not be done without plenty of immigration – that’s why we have unemployment and always will have as long as the neoliberals have their way, Labour included.

    Also, lower paid people have been feeling the pinch a lot longer than the past four years due to wage suppression, it’s only now being made into a thing because the middle class is feeling it a little bit. Labour may have introduced the NMW but they made damn sure it became the National Maximum Wage at the same time by allowing migration from the accession countries.

    Next step in the globalisation will be TTIP and again the working class will bear the brunt.Never mind though, all will be fine when Mexicans are fighting Poles to renovate Highgate townhouses for thruppence an hour. We’ll be told it’s for our own good.

  9. Guest

    You’re making frantic excuses for austerity I see. Your policies cause austerity, you’re just blaming the Other rather than admit that Neoliberalism has failed Britain, as you blame Labour again.

    Then you spout nonsense and oppose the NMW, as usual, and say that because we didn’t have more barriers and tarrifs things are worse.

    Your right are frantically in support of TTIP, and the fighting will be your far right.

    Even if you were right, as you are not, the answer would be a living wage, not trying to get people attacked for having dark skins!

  10. Guest

    Yes, you are being patronising, to suggest that only the right need engagement.

  11. swat

    I doubt if Carswell or Farage has done an honest days work in his, apart from attending meetings and going down to the pub for a pint. In America there is a term for the leftbehinders and its not complementary ie ‘white tr*sh’; I wouldn’t go so far as to apply it here but it still rings a bell, and boradly covers the dissaffected reluctant to keep up with the pace of modern life.

  12. Ian Duncan

    Did you actually read what I wrote or have you only got straw men and personal insults in your armoury?Tell me where I made any excuse for austerity? A steady supply of cheap labour *will* bring wages down, if you can’t understand that then you have no business being here.

    I have no clue where you get the idea I oppose the minimum wage, no idea at all so I suggest you quote me.

    It’s not ‘my’ right in favour of TTIP as I am ot a right winger and support none of the mainstream parties.

    Who mentioned race? Show me where I mentioned skin colour. Go on, do it, see if you can find one syllable about race in my post, you berk.

    If anyone reds and moderates this, I suggest they have a word with this guest cretin, obviously out to troll and disrupt. Block his IP if he can’t act like an adult.

  13. Tapestery

    UKIP’s Achilles heel. Roger Helmer, the aging Energy spokesman. He’s talking gobbledygook.

  14. Guest

    Sadly for you, yes.

    You are supporting the right, and chanting lies over and over as if it makes them true. I am getting the idea from your posts, and you’re far to to the right of even the far right parties, check.

    Of course you want to intimidate people with other views, as you blame me for your sins, and demand silence, Dave Roberts / LordBlagger, for anything outside your extremist views.

  15. Ian Duncan

    Boring, boring, boring, boring, tedious, little attention slag.

    Take your mummy issues somewhere else, dullard.

  16. Guest

    Of course every Guest is the same person, as you in your role of Disqus CTO has confirmed.

    Keep saying that I am “satisfied” by your whining, LordBlagger.

  17. Guest

    Yes, yes, you hate democracy so much after you were kicked out of a Union and the Labour Party.

    I said what I did, as you say that disagreement is a “sneer”, as you make up nonsense about time and invent myths about rectitude.

    I’ve said what I did, and I’m not rich like you. Never have been.

  18. Cole

    They have a lot of this stuff in other European countries, you know. And often better than here. And if course lots of Brits – millions of them actually – are living in other EU countries.

  19. Cole

    Who cares about the far left – and what have they got to do with any of this? Most of us are worried about the far right, aka Ukip.

  20. Cole

    Huh? Labour are consistently ahead in most opinion polls. And have been for years.

  21. sarntcrip


  22. sarntcrip


  23. sarntcrip

    THE F

  24. steve gawronski

    I dont think you understood my post!!!

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