***Updated on 1st February 2017***
Synonymous with 2016 is both the UK ‘Brexit’ referendum and the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election. Whilst the customary yearly review shows concentrate on these two narratives, the rise of Paul Nuttall as the new leader of the UK Independence Party will inevitably gain little to no traction. Nuttall’s appointment on Monday 28th November is a date that few will recall, but in turn could prove a key moment in UKIP rising to prominence in British politics.
Immediately after winning the party’s election contest, Nuttall addressed supporters in Central London with this message:
“I want to make it perfectly clear: this leader of Ukip is not going to involve himself in foreign elections, period. My focus is here, in the United Kingdom, on winning council seats and on getting Ukip backsides on the green leather of the House of Commons. I am my own man. I will be completely different to Nigel.
My ambition is not insignificant: I want to replace the Labour party and make Ukip the patriotic voice of working people.”
He added to reporters that, “there’s something going on in the continent of Europe. There’s an anti-establishment feel, which is growing, right across the rest of the world. And I want Ukip to be that vehicle here in the UK.”
To understand the potential importance of Nuttall’s victory, it is worth comparing his rise to party leader with that of UKIP’s founder Nigel Farage.
Farage (pictured) attended Dulwich College, a boarding and day independent school for boys in South East London. After leaving the college in 1982, Farage opted not to attend university, favouring instead his first venture into the financial heartland of the City of London by beginning his career trading commodities on the London Metal Exchange. He later became a member of the Conservative party, a position he abdicated under Prime Minister John Major after the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992.
In 1993, Nigel founded UKIP. Thirteen years on, he became party leader for the first time. After failing to win the Thanet South seat in the 2015 general election, he announced he would be resigning as leader, a decision which was rejected by the party. It was only after the leave vote became a reality in the EU referendum that Farage finally resigned, this time without objection.
He did, however, return a short time later as interim leader when Diane James, who had only been head of the party for a few weeks, stepped down.
This is where Paul Nuttall enters the picture. Born in Bootle, Merseyside, Nuttall attended Savio High School Comprehensive and studied A Levels at Hugh Baird College just outside of Liverpool city centre. He went on to gain a Higher National Diploma in Sports Science at North Lincolnshire College. Next he achieved a BA in History at Edge Hill University, then a MA in Edwardian Politics at Hope University. This led to him being given a Certificate of Education from the University of Central Lancashire.
From 2004 to 2006 (after his graduation), Nuttall lectured history at Hope University. During this time he apparently began working towards a PhD into the history of Conservatism in Liverpool which he did not complete. His membership with UKIP began in 2004 after he defected from the Conservative party.
The differences in Farage’s and Nuttell’s upbringing are stark. Whilst the former was educated privately (Dulwich College currently charge £13,160 for a full year’s board), the latter has only ever been part of the state education system.
When Nigel Farage led UKIP, he attempted to speak for a disenfranchised ‘working class’ element of society that had been ignored by the political establishment and the ‘metropolitan elites’. The trouble with that was Farage’s own personal image and life experience did not reflect his stance of championing those who had seen their ability to lead a comfortable life neutered by the forces of globalisation – notably through depressed wages and poor job prospects.
That is not to say that a wealthy man cannot actively support the cause of those who possess little. But perhaps the perception of Nigel Farage being one of the elites that he often spoke out against is a reason for his lack of domestic political success. Or it could be as simple as suggesting that during Farage’s tenure as leader, then was neither the right time or climate to manipulate UKIP into a position of prominence.
Paul Nuttall does not have to contend with this problem. Given his background – and to a not insignificant degree his Liverpudlian accent – it underscores his roots and presents a clearer image of a leader who can empathise with the ‘working class’ and their struggles. Whether this is actually true or not is immaterial. Image does not have to be authentic. If people perceive it to be, it amounts to the same thing.
Moments after being elected leader, Nuttall stood before the British press and delivered a speech outlining some of his goals and aspirations for UKIP, from which he signed off by declaring, ‘Let’s get out there and let’s get cracking.’ Here is a summary:
- Fair but firm immigration control that protects wages and ensures British workers are not under cut
- Full sentences for convicted criminals and no protection for career criminals
- The promotion of aspiration and social mobility
- Working class children will get the same start in life as their middle class counterparts
- Championing education by ability and not wealth
- Supporting the UK military ‘to the hilt’
- A commitment to increase defense expenditure
- A pledge to honour the military covenant and look after servicemen and women when they return home
- Investment and protection of the NHS
- Slashing the foreign aid budget
- Championing of devolution and promotion of the English
- A desire to ‘replace the Labour Party and make UKIP the patriotic voice of working people’
It is this last goal of usurping the Labour Party that we will be focusing on for the remainder of the article.
As I have written about in previous posts, Jeremy Corbyn’s role as Labour leader will ultimately serve one of two purposes. After winning two leadership elections, it is now clear that Corbyn is an important conduit in British politics, particularly in the wake of ‘Brexit’ and Donald Trump – and into the future with the upcoming shenanigans of article 50 in 2017. Corbyn is either going to achieve what once would have been deemed unthinkable and become Prime Minister at the next general election (before 2020 in my view), or he is knowingly or unknowingly being tasked with systemically destroying Labour’s core ‘working class’ vote.
Much like Paul Nuttall, Jeremy Corbyn speaks of supporting the ‘working class’, but as with Nigel Farage, was educated privately. Corbyn attended two schools, the first being Castle House School in Newport, Shropshire, who charge £2,815 for education up to year six. He then moved on to Adam’s Grammar School, again in Shropshire, where a full year’s board costs £10,965. It was whilst at Adam’s that Corbyn became active in his local Labour party.
Being fair to both Farage and Corbyn, the decision to have them both privately educated would have been taken at parental level. But how much is that taken into consideration when the electorate decide who to vote for? Terms like ‘privately educated’ are synonymous with many people’s perception of elitism and the Westminster establishment. Because of that, it sets Paul Nuttall apart from not just his predecessor but also one of his now main political rivals.
In a previous post – Article 50: Corbyn’s Route to Downing Street or a Boris Coronation? – I theorised on some possible outcomes following a vote in parliament on whether to invoke article 50 and begin the official withdrawal from the European Union. Let’s now add UKIP into the mix and speculate on a scenario that could help them maximise from the fallout surrounding ‘Brexit’:
**Update – February 1st, 2017**
Parliament have now voted to back the bill to trigger article 50. Prime Minister Theresa May remains on course to officially begin the process of leaving the EU by the end of March 2017. The scenario below has now been updated to reflect the progress on article 50.
Article 50 Triggered / Negotiations Begin on Leaving the EU
- ‘Nationalist’ governments begin coming to power in the EU (potentially in France, Germany and Holland)
- During negotiations, a financial crisis emerges threatening Europe (possibly through America or another chosen trigger) and taking the momentum away from the UK leaving the EU
- Negotiations for ‘Brexit’ come under increasing strain. Eventually announced that an exit will not be finalised on the original time scale
- Growing narrative of Theresa May not having a sufficient mandate to govern the Brexit process
- Calls for article 50 to be revoked i.e. for the government to change its mind, and for a second referendum on the issue
- Increasing socioeconomic problems in the EU
- Opposition parties and sections of the media call for an early general election. Labour pledge either a 2nd referendum on Britain leaving the EU or a referendum on the outcome of negotiations for a ‘Brexit’. The Liberal Democrats pledge to remain in the EU and revoke article 50
- An early general election is called provoking two potential scenarios:
- Either Theresa May runs against Jeremy Corbyn, or she resigns with the most likely replacement, Boris Johnson, taking charge as a unifying candidate to go up against Corbyn
- Whichever outcome, UKIP stand to make gains throughout the UK
- The election will be fought around ‘Brexit’, effectively turning it into a second referendum on membership of the EU
- Paul Nuttall and UKIP aggressively target Labour heartlands, building the narrative that ‘the left’ is turning its back on working class voters
- The Labour vote collapses, taking the party down to under 200 seats and prompting Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation
- UKIP end the election with over a dozen MP’s in parliament
- The Conservatives win the most seats but not enough to claim a majority
- The Liberal Democrat vote makes modest gains, with the SNP holding steady
- Now the path would be set for UKIP’s ascension to power by forming a coalition with the Conservatives. Theresa May or Boris Johnson will rally behind the ‘Brexit’ cause and pledge to take Britain out of the EU
If anything akin to the above scenario were to materialise, it would cement Britain’s turn towards nationalism, a process that began with the ‘Brexit’ vote and would then be reinforced by the rise of UKIP as part of a coalition government. Too far fetched? Perhaps it will turn out to be so.
Of critical importance though is how Labour respond to UKIP’s targeting of the safe Labour seat. One of those safe seats is Paul Nuttall’s birth place of Bootle. It remains in the eyes of local residents and media as inconceivable that anyone other than a Labour MP could hold the constituency. Just as the majority thought a leave vote and Donald Trump’s presidential victory to be equally as inconceivable.
If we surmise that Corbyn is the man to destroy the Labour Party in its current manifestation, then their response to UKIP will be fairly predictable. They will attack Nuttall for his protectionist stance, his advocacy of populism, his ‘racist’ immigration policy, his xenophobia towards other cultures outside of the UK. Such language and positioning risks inflaming an already exasperated electorate who are tired of having their concerns pigeonholed and branded as intolerant and out of touch with the modern world.
Worth mentioning also is how Jeremy Corbyn has not committed to a policy of limiting immigration into the UK. Back in September he said, ‘A Labour government will not offer false promises. We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear. We will instead tackle the real issues of immigration – and make the changes that are needed.’ Corbyn’s spokesman said at the time that, ‘He is not concerned about numbers’. But a large percentage of the electorate are. If Corbyn remains incredulous to those concerns, his party face the very real prospect of being destroyed. A downfall that will be by design and with intent.
The truth here is that a sizable amount of traditional working class areas came out in support of leaving the EU, including many who vote Labour. Even the Communist Party of Great Britain supported Britain leaving the EU, a fact that ‘the left’ have blatantly ignored.
Should Labour further the divide between themselves and their own supporter base by vilifying their worries, UKIP could quite easily be manipulated into a position of stripping them of their long perceived safe seats. That is if the agenda is to substantiate Britain’s nationalist direction.
The alternative to Labour’s collapse – the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to Prime Minister – was a scenario I debated when first analysing the article 50 process of ‘Brexit’. I believe this is still possible and that the globalist elites behind ‘Brexit’ could engineer Britain to do an about turn and reject nationalism on a political level.
More likely in my view is that Corbyn is leading Labour to its own destruction. Many attempts were made to oust him, to the point where following the ‘Brexit’ result over 90% of his shadow cabinet deserted him. Yet he survived to eventually gain an increased majority in his second leadership contest within a year. Calls for him to resign have since completely evaporated, with the Labour narrative now behind Corbyn taking the party into the next general election. For the purpose of victory or the purpose of destruction?
Whichever occurs, ‘Brexit’ will be a decisive vehicle in what plays out in British politics in 2017.
I wish all readers of this blog a happy Christmas and new year. Thank you for your support throughout 2016.