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Welcome to Ukipland: where Nigel Farage’s dreams come true

3 May 2013

‘Where do you expect to do well in these local elections?’ I asked the Ukip spokesman. ‘England!’ he boomed down the phone. On Wednesday afternoon, this seemed typical of Ukip’s bullish exuberance but judging by their predicted ‘phenomenal performance’ parts of Britain (like Boston) have become Ukipland overnight. Yesterday, I went to find some real Ukip voters in the Home Counties and discover why they have abandoned the three main parties.

Nigel Farage stood in Buckingham at the 2010 general election and received just 17 per cent of the vote against Commons speaker John Bercow. The county of Buckinghamshire was once solid blue territory, but this green and pleasant corner of England holds just the kind of Tory voters Farage thinks he can pick up because of their displeasure with David Cameron. And when I spotted this banner on the main road into Aylesbury I knew I’d arrived in Ukipland:


But aside from this, I was disappointed at the lack of Ukippers. Wandering through the town, there were no leafleters, posters or even flags. The party’s Aylesbury and Buckinghamshire HQ was a deserted townhouse without even a poster in the window. One Liberal Democrat councillor said of his purple foes, ‘they certainly make a lot of noise, especially on the high-speed line, but will anyone listen?’

At another polling station, I found the most young Tory who was hopeful of unseating a 30-year incumbent Lib Dem. When I asked the candidate how he had campaigned to win, he told me ‘by focusing hard on the local issues, and not mentioning David Cameron at all. Everyone hates the Tories around here’.

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As I drove through the twisting lanes of Aylesbury Vale, I was surprised at the abundance of Conservative posters and placards. The death of the Tory grassroots appears to have been prematurely overspun by their opponents, or at least the local party was putting up a good fight, which suggests its campaigners are still loyal.

The village of Twyford is prime Ukip territory. It is a bucolic vision of England — children running around the village, a thriving pub, small ‘outstanding’ primary school and a co-operative village shop (run by 80 local volunteers working four hour shifts a week). All of which will be smashed apart when the High Speed 2 route is built 200 yards from the outer perimeter:


Not a single voter in Twyford — or in the nearby villages of Chetwoode, Charndon and Quainton — would reveal how they voted but when goaded on HS2, they all gave the game away. They were punishing the Tories en masse, and most stated an utter contempt for the three main parties. I questioned one voter why the area was so motivated by a single issue and was dragged to the edge of the village to see where the line would go:


The HS2 fixation reveals Ukip’s biggest strength and weakness. They’ve no doubt picked up a significant amount of votes in Buckinghamshire for their opposition but their opposition could be classed as opportunism. Ukip’s policy on High Speed rail isn’t as straightforward as the voters of Buckinghamshire would believe. As Jim Pickard of the Financial Times pointed out last week, Ukip actually promised in their 2010 manifesto ‘three new 200mph-plus high-speed rail lines’:

‘This would include a new line between London and Newcastle with a spur to Manchester, a London-Bristol-Exeter line and a linking route via Birmingham’

That sounds not too dissimilar to HS2, but without cutting through their beloved Chilterns. Ukip appear to resonate in Bucks purely because of their anti-political credentials, not their actual policies. One Tory told me that people were ‘voting Ukip today but will switch back to the Tories at the general election’. This seems a plausible trend — kick the establishment when it matters the least but still allow it to run the country. If this turns out to be true, it could halt Ukip’s rise after the European elections next year.

After scouring the countryside up to Bicester and back, I was hard-pressed to find any more signs of Ukip support, just anti-HS2 campaigning. Their impressive results in the elections must have more to do with national chatter than to a grassroots machine. When I quizzed the Ukip spokesman on Wednesday about how many seats they expected to pick up today, he responded ‘someone remarked to me we may win 100. It could be 10! It could be 135! Ukip manages to perplex not just the political parties but the psephologists too.’

Based on what I saw in Ukip heartland, a solid result today will not be down to a lean and mean local machine. Farage still has a lot of work to turn his anti-politics soapbox into a fully-fledged national political party but today’s results suggest they at least have the momentum to do so.

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Show comments
  • Maria Gorska

    “They’ve no doubt picked up a significant amount of votes in Buckinghamshire…”
    Number of votes, dear.
    Goodness, I am shocked! I thought the Spectator was a class magazine!

  • Mark Croucher

    Are you sure that UKIP’s policy on high speed rail lines wasn’t to upgrade the existing lines to high speed, rather than build completely new ones on virgin countryside? I’m pretty sure that was it……

  • Smithersjones2013

    Now for the majority of people in this country ‘UKIPLAND’ is actually home. Its only urban liberal elitist metrotextuals who find such places unfamiliar.and seemingly novel buts that because they rarely venture beyond their safe little urban bubble

  • thanksdellingpole

    It’s simple: do you want HS2: YES or NO?

    If it’s no then you can’t vote Tory.


    • Stephen Sharp

      That doesn’t follow because by extension you’d have to agree with literally every single one of a party’s policies to vote for them and no-one agrees with every single policy of any party.

      If it’s “no” but you think there are considerably more important issues facing the country and that you think the Conservative’s policies would be the best at addressing those issues then of course you can vote for them.

      • thanksdellingpole

        The collective view, that’s democracy and people don’t want it.

  • The Aged P

    Another Speccie schoolboy says “Move along, nothing to see here”….and they get paid for this sort of in-depth research…..

  • fwdinsight

    Surely he correct thing to do at all times is to ask the person or organisation whose name it is, how it should appear in print.

  • ArchiePonsonby

    Another sneering piece from The Speccer and their novice “spokespersons” for CCHQ!

  • don logan

    Can anyone name another member of Nige’s frontline team. They’ll be like the Green’s who had a reasonably articulate and attractive leader in Caroline Lucas and as soon as she stepped down you quickly realised that there was no-one of even the faintest quality behind her. Is this the case for Nige too?

    • ArchiePonsonby

      Roger Helmer, Lisa Duffy, Steve Crowther, Steven Woolfe, Alan Bown, David Coburn, Michael Greaves.

      • Wessex Man

        You forgot the brains of the organisation Paul Nuttall.

        • ArchiePonsonby


      • don logan

        I have never heard of any of them.

        • ArchiePonsonby

          Ah well, I have.

        • Ray Veysey

          Is that a comment about us or yourself?

        • Linda Lord

          Proves the point exactly the viceroysgin was making dear boy. Do try and get out more.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Yes, this blogpost doesn’t quite know what it wants to say, other than it’s squealing in pain at the thought of it all.

    At another polling station, I found the most young Tory who was hopeful
    of unseating a 30-year incumbent Lib Dem. When I asked the candidate how
    he had campaigned to win, he told me ‘by focusing hard on the local
    issues, and not mentioning David Cameron at all. Everyone hates the
    Tories around here’.

    So Dave is more popular than his party, is he? Isn’t that what you Cameroons bleat constantly. 😉

    I think you Speccie teenagers need to shut off those computers, and go back and read a bit about grassroots movements, and how they come together, and how they influence political systems. You seem quite ignorant off all that’s going on around you, which is likely down to your poor education and bubble-centrism. You should try to fix that, so that you don’t look so foolish on days like today. And there will be more of these, rest assured, given the reaction of you bubble denizens to these events so far. Time for you to smarten up, kids.

    • flintman

      Agree sir, kid’s stuff.

  • david.geddes1

    The whole tone of this article suggests that the author doesn’t take UKIP seriously.

    • Charles Hedges

      Nor should anyone.

      • Abhay

        Nobody’s taking you seriously for sure!

  • Hexhamgeezer


    Why can’t we all just live together in perfect Harman-ee?

  • wyclif

    I find the use of “Ukip” a bit odd. Perhaps copyediting and proofreading is called for. The proper nomenclature is “UKIP” since this is an acronym.

    • London Historians

      Do you mean like Scuba, Nato and the Beeb? This carping about how Ukip is written strikes me as being churlish, peevish, ungracious, quite apart from just being wrong. First they complain that nobody gives them any coverage, then when they get loads of coverage, they’re still not happy. Careful, Ukip, people can go off you just as quickly.

      Hurrah for the Spectator Style Guide.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …you mean, they can be flushed, just like those 300 Cameroonians yesterday? 😉

  • Jebediah

    Shouldn’t you be writing UKIP not Ukip? As they’re the initials of an organisation? (Not to mention the UK is in there).

    • Sebastian Payne

      The Spectator house style is to write it how it’s said – Ukip, not U.K.I.P.

      • Jebediah

        So when you talk about the CIA you write Cia? Or seeihay? I get it, seems odd.

        I liked the article, in case you think, “All that work, and all they can talk about is the damn initial.”

        • Camilla Swift

          According to our style guide, we write CIA because it’s pronounced ‘See Eye Ay’. We write Ukip because it’s pronounced You Kip. The SDP get SDP. Same for SNP, BNP, MEP etc etc.

          • Jebediah

            Yes I understood that the first time. I was having a little fun. I do feel in this instance it can be, and indeed is interpreted as a derogatory usage of the party’s initials. Just because it’s pronounced Ukip, does not make it a word.

            • biggestaspidistra

              That’s odd, usually no Spectator columnist in the comments, here there are two of them. So aids, nato, pin number, okay (or OK like ‘See Eye Ay’?), ukip is the Spectator style rule?

            • Abhay

              You continue to make enormous amount of sense!

          • Julian_F

            Would you style UNESCO as Unesco because it’s pronounced “you-nesco”? Only asking…

          • CaptainDallas

            So it should be Bupa?

            Or pronounced B-U-P-A?

            No? Thought not. Try using the proper term for the UK Independence party from now on – it’s UKIP.

          • Abhay

            Can you please ask your style guide to explain the following:
            USA or Youesay
            EU or eeyou
            Such profoundities…who knew?

      • Youbian

        Why? surely you should call something by its proper name. It is insulting not to. Or is that the point?

    • Ray Veysey

      It’s an attempt to reduce the impact of the name, as is the whole article. It’s another one of Cameron’s lackeys trotting the party line out.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, the Speccie Cameroons are at work here.

        Oh and fyi, you are alone in your “style guide”, young lass, which would prove the above points.

        • Ray Veysey

          “young lass” ? “style guide”? lost me there your highness.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Sorry, I was directing that post at the young Speccie lass, not you.

    • thanksdellingpole

      I know, I know, but even Farage himself (on the Tepegraph) wrote them as “Ukip”, but not sure if that was post editing?

      It’s should be UKIP, no one writes the “Bbc” do they!

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