Ukip was an accidental threat to Labour. It stumbled on disgruntled Labour voters and yet it picked up nearly a million by the 2015 election. Now that Ukip’s new leader, Paul Nuttall, is focused on wooing them, Labour faces an unprecedented threat.
Ukip was intended for Tory voters disillusioned by mainstream political parties selling out their sense of national identity to the European Union. Labour’s sleepwalking away from its working-class voters has resulted in droves of them moving to what the media loves to classify as a right-wing party. This is a mistake.
Right and left no longer register with voters in the way they did. Voters are more interested in where parties stand on identity, community, family, and the defence provided by national borders. Disenchanted Labour voters do not give a tinker’s cuss whether the party they consider supporting is dubbed right wing, extremist, or any other abusive term.
Paul Nuttall comes to Ukip’s leadership with a bevy of advantages. He is a northerner at a time when many voters have turned against party leaders from the north London elite.
The upper middle class have never had it so good since the Edwardian era. In fact, they are having it better. Immigration has provided them with a servant class that does not even need to “live in”. No wonder the elite voted overwhelmingly for Remain.
Ukip’s former Tory voters were essentially birds of passage. As I expected, many of them returned to the fold once Theresa May began to echo their concerns, especially on immigration.
The movement of Labour voters is much more serious. It is not a protest vote in the way that the first wave of Ukip voters were. It is the outward sign of disillusionment with a party that fails to understand how vulnerable its supporters now feel.
Despite Ukip’s farcical leadership contests, it finds itself on the right page of history at the right time. With the exception of the shadow business secretary Clive Lewis, there is no sign that Labour’s front bench understands how footloose Labour voters have become. Clive Lewis has grasped that globalisation, and in particular open borders, has ripped open Labour’s core vote. But he is powerless to prevent the haemorrhage to Ukip when the Labour leadership preaches an internationalism that would inflict even more damage on the living standards of Labour voters.