UKIP met a bitter end in June, but there are signs that the party could make a come-back.
At the 2015 general election, UKIP won an impressive 13% of the vote. They only secured one seat, but the Conservatives’ majority ensured that an EU referendum would happen. In that sense achieved a major victory, and won again when the country voted for Brexit. But in 2017, UKIP was squeezed to a pulp resultant of the UK's decision to leave the EU, as well as the ineffective leadership of Paul Nutall.
Now that the UK and EU have agreed to move on to the next stage of Brexit negotiations, are there signs that the party could make a comeback?
If George Osborne’s characterisation of the breakthrough announced on Friday is correct then there is certainly hope for the party. Writing in the Evening Standard, which he edits, he declared that:
“The breakthrough in Brussels earlier today should be welcomed by all those who want a softer Brexit. The hard Brexiteers clamouring for the UK to walk away and crash out of the EU without a deal have been thwarted.”
The Standard also reports that business leaders praised the move towards a softer Brexit.
At the same time key figures from UKIP have attacked the “breakthrough”.
Nigel Farage appeared on Sky News to condemn the negotiations and tweeted that “A deal in Brussels is good news for Mrs May as we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation.”
Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are putting their party before country again. They know this isn't what 17.4m people voted for. pic.twitter.com/IIWBQRinGL
A deal in Brussels is good news for Mrs May as we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) 8 December 2017
If UKIP capitalise on the government’s seemingly softer position towards exiting the European Union, they might be able to make some electoral progress and gain some political capital. It’s difficult to see their support rising to what it was before Brexit, but a boost in the polls and some council by-election victories might be in order.
The Conservatives should worry about UKIP, but they must have calculated that it’s not worth the risk.
That said, if Conservative support falls and UKIP support rises, an opportunity arises for Labour to come right up through the middle.
If Labour come up with a palatable position on Brexit, then the next election is theirs to win.