UKIP membership surges 15% in a month
Why is the party of Brexit making an unlikely comeback?
UKIP has attracted a slew of new members over the past month, as public disillusionment with the direction of Brexit negotiations and the party’s more hard-right nationalist stance appear to be giving it a new sense of purpose.
Internal figures reveal that nearly 3,200 new members joined in July, increasing party membership by 15%, coinciding with a boost in the polls from 2% nationally to more than 5%.
Party insiders claim people are returning to the party they deserted for the Conservatives, angered by Theresa May’s compromised Chequers plan.
“This sets up a possible battle for supremacy in a party which under the leadership of Gerard Batten has talked more in recent months about Islam than Brexit,” says The Guardian, “and now has close links to Tommy Robinson, the far-right activist released from prison on Wednesday.”
Batten, who took over leadership of the party in February following the resignation of Henry Bolton, has sought to move UKIP beyond the confines of Brexit and align it with other far-right populist parties in the US and Europe.
He has adopted much of their overtly anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric, referring to Islam as a “death cult” and calling the prophet Muhammad a paedophile.
The recent increase in membership is, however, relative. Its 24,000 members still amount to less than half its peak of 46,000 in mid-2015. In national polls, its 5% is far off the 13% share it garnered at the 2015 general election, when it received 3.8 million votes.
“A complicating factor is that not all the new members will be motivated by Brexit,” says The Guardian.
The party has also attracted younger members, following the endorsement of the three popular YouTube-based activists, meaning that “if others in the party did want a change in direction - even Nigel Farage, who has pledged to return to frontline politics next year if he feels Brexit is being thwarted - they might struggle to wrest back control”.