How Will the Labour Leadership Election Affect UKIP?
After the new PM’s first PMQs, we know that job security is at the top of Corbyn’s mind, and understandably so in the current circumstances. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has faced a leadership challenge following a vote of no confidence in him supported by 147 Labour MPs. Angela Eagle gathered the support of 51 Labour MPs and is contesting Corbyn for the leadership. More recently, Owen Jones has joined the race and Eagle withdrew thinking that Jones had more support among MPs. But the question on our minds is, how could this affect our party, UKIP?
There are several scenarios that could unfold, the most likely of which being that Corbyn wins again. This would leave the party in a very unstable condition, for many reasons. Its inability to form a frontbench in itself is enough to make it an ineffective opposition, but it also has a leader who is widely considered to be unelectable, meaning that the Labour party can neither be an effective opposition nor get voted in as an effective government. Which leaves Labour in a very sticky situation. So what does it do? One increasingly likely scenario is that the party will split into two factions, the Corbynites (41 MPs), who will most likely claim the Labour brand since they won the leadership. But the 147 MPs who voted against Jeremy will need to find an alternative route. There is talk of a coalition party with the Lib Dems, or a new party altogether. Either way, the outcome will be the same. The voters who moved from Labour to UKIP because of Corbyn’s silly lefty policies like banning shoot-to-kill and removing Trident will realise that the Labour split-off party is not so stupid and is like the Labour they support. They will very quickly move back to them, leaving UKIP with a massive gap in its voter base. While it would leave Labour with a split vote, our bizarre First Past The Post system means that the Tories will gain a massive amount of seats, even if they lose votes! This would demolish a large chunk of UKIP electorally, and practically.
Another scenario is that Owen Jones wins the race and Corbyn is embarrassed in front of the world. This would almost certainly keep Labour together (although still a little awkward) and would result in Labour being considered electable again. While it would seem clear that this would be bad for UKIP, I would say quite the opposite. Owen Jones is very much to the left of the party, similarly to Corbyn but not quite as radical. This means that most of the disaffected Labour voters would continue to vote UKIP because of the growing anti-establishment feeling among Labour voters. The leading candidate for the UKIP leadership, Steven Woolfe, says he will “ruthlessly” hunt down Labour voters and bring them to UKIP with his social mobility policies and his council estate, ethnic background.
Clearly, the latter of these options is the best for UKIP. Because of the negative effect Corbyn’s re-election would have on UKIP, I am rooting for Jones to win the race. It is hard to predict what will happen to Labour and therefore what will happen to UKIP. One thing, however, is certain, both parties cannot grow at the same time.