With their Farage-reliant party structure, the idea of a ground game is alien to UKIP
This Sunday in South Thanet Labour’s campaign against Nigel Farage will be helped by a day of campaigning on the doorsteps led by Owen Jones. Several hundred people are set to come down, and there’s a lot of excitement in advance.
The mass canvass comes after Nigel Farage’s call to arms last weekend, when the UKIP leader became belatedly alert to the fact he would not receive the coronation he had expected in South Thanet.
What was striking about Farage’s plea to supporters was quite how novel it was to his party. Whereas for Labour the custom of campaigners seconding themselves to marginal seats from safe ones is a mainstay of the electoral cycle, for UKIP it generated national headlines.
Indeed, with their tadpole-like, Farage-reliant party structure, the idea of a ground game is in many ways alien to UKIP. This week in Thanet they paid for their second £8,000 wraparound of the local newspaper, and the area is now decked out in expensive purple and yellow advertising. But those who have seen their supporters out and about report a shambolic and often undirected canvassing operation.
Increasingly this is the story in South Thanet, with UKIP (and the Tories, for that matter) pumping vast amounts into big budget marketing and advertising – effectively deploying a high volume, low engagement strategy. Farage’s tinny claim to lead the “people’s army” is hollower than anyone quite appreciates.
With Ukip ploughing the lion’s share of national party resources into two or three seats they believe they can win, the paradox is acute. Farage’s team use Goliath-like resources to plaster every billboard, newspaper and bus with the message that they are the David-esque electoral underdog.
The only way Labour can counter this is by doing what we have been doing for the last two years in South Thanet – and are doing across the country – and continue with a methodical, street-by-street, house-by-house approach that genuinely engages with people. By ramping this up, through mass canvassing events like the Owen Jones one this weekend, this election can become British politics’ great Wizard of Oz moment – a sign of quite how little there is behind the purple curtain.
For more information about Sunday’s event, click here.
Will Scobie is the Labour candidate in South ThanetLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.