UKIP election failure: ‘Their focus was too narrow’

Nigel Farage resigns as leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) after failing to secure a seat in parliament during a news conference in Broadstairs, on the south coast of Britain, May 8, 2015. (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)
The UK Independence Party’s campaign at the 2015 general election was mainly focused on the topic of immigration which is an important issue but to get more seats you need more, Robert Oulds, Director of the Bruges Group, told RT.

RT:Will David Cameron stick to his pre-election promise and hold an 'in-out' EU referendum?

Robert Oulds: He will have to. He’s made this pledge… of course he made out his promises before, he did on the Lisbon Treaty and reneged on that… But this time he must deliver that pledge or he would just face an absolute storm from his own backbenchers and from the public. He has promised this referendum he now must deliver… He’s actually backed himself into a corner, but I think he actually wants to have the debate because he is going to use every arm of the state and all his political tactics to win it, and try and lance what he would see as lots of boils of EU skepticism, and try to defeat it because at heart David Cameron remains supportive of Britain’s membership of the EU.

READ MORE: UKIP's Nigel Farage resigns after failing to win South Thanet seat in #GE2015

RT:How strong are anti-EU sentiments in the UK right now?

RO: Most people are generally EU skeptic, people are really opposed to the EU, they don’t want further integration, they would actually want powers to be rolled back from Brussels to democratic institutions. But at the moment there has been a constant drip-feed of scare stories about how terrible things would be if Britain would want to leave the EU - all of course absolutely bogus arguments, but I think this is having somewhat of an effect at the moment, and David Cameron isn’t actually making the EU skeptic case. He is arguing that there should be some changes, but he doesn’t want Britain actually to leave the EU, He actually supports [the membership] as do most of the major political parties such as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Of course they may not be around in politics for much longer. But the main political parties’ leadership does support Britain’s membership in the EU. There is an attempt to try to scare people into being less EU skeptic, which is having some effect. But ultimately if there is to be a referendum we can get out arguments across and show that Britain would better off out of the EU.

RT:The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has won just one seat so far.Is it a disappointing night?

RO: It’s a very disappointing night for them, but really it’s somewhat to be expected because whenever there is a general election it’s often a two parties squeeze, the main political parties – Labour and Conservatives – take away votes , they dominate the airwaves. The main media outlets don’t usually give UKIP much credit; they often highlight any gaffs they were to make about other parties… So for them just having one seat was always the likely outcome. And plus of course their focus was very narrow - mainly focusing on the topic of immigration, which is a very important issue for many people but to get more seats you need more. So UKIP were always really going to manage to get one seat because their focus is just too narrow.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks outside Number 10 Downing Street to announce he will form a new majority goverment, in London, Britain May 8, 2015. (Reuters/Stefan Wermuth)

‘It’s victory for Cameron, but there are big challenges ahead’

Although David Cameron won the 2015 UK general election it’s not going to be easy to govern in a stable way as there is public support for UKIP and a lot of it is within his own party, says British journalist and political commentator Tom Gross.

RT:Do you think Cameron can believe his luck? Was it luck?

Tom Gross: I guess there was an element of luck but perhaps he ran a better campaign than a lot of pundits have given him credit for, he has had definitely a resounding victory. On the other hand, expectations were so low that if you actually step back and look at the results - he’s got a wafer thin majority and it’s not going to be that easy for him to govern in a stable way. It’s the right wing of his own party who share a lot of the views of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and although UKIP only got one seat - they got around 13 percent of the vote so there is a ground swell of public support for UKIP’s right position. And a lot of that public support is also contained within his party. So it’s a victory for him, partly maybe through luck, but there are big challenges ahead.

READ MORE: #GE2015 result: David Cameron's Conservative Party wins overall majority

RT:Cameron promised a referendum on EU membership.Do you think London's relationship with Europe could change?

TG: A couple of years ago I would have thought that the British would not vote to leave the EU, but I think it is a really distinct possibility now. There is a lot of antipathy towards the EU in Britain. Cameron is planning in 2017 to have a referendum, a simple question – in or out – and it’s going to be a closely fought referendum. Britain doesn’t hold referendums very often, but as we saw with the Scottish referendum last September when the powers in London decided to hold that referendum they were confident that the Scottish nationalists would not succeed. In fact it was a very close referendum and even though the Scottish nationalists narrowly lost the referendum, it’s not the end of the story as we see because we see this enormous victory for the Scottish nationalists at the general election [on Thursday]. In a way they let the genie out of the bottle with Scottish nationalism. Perhaps by holding a referendum on the EU they are also letting the genie out of the bottle with British nationalism among those people in British society that would rather go it alone and not belong to the EU anymore.

Would UK be better off outside the EU?

James Meadway, Senior economist at the independent think-tank The New Economics Foundation commented on what advantages London financial institutions have being in the EU and what might happen if the UK leaves the EU.

“…In terms of the City of London financial services, [the UK] has a very particular set of interests and developed relationships with European institutions… Previously, George Osborne as Chancellor [of the Exchequer] was very keen on arguing the City of London’s case inside Europe, arguing to avoid financial transactions, taxes and the rest of it, and I expect that to continue from this point onwards. It’s an open question as to whether or not finance would gain or not gain from Britain being in or out of the EU. On balance they probably prefer to continue as a member and to gain some of the advantages that this involves for them,” he said.

READ MORE: Ed Miliband resigns as Labour Party leader after general election defeat

Speaking about the UK’s possible EU exit and whether it would benefit the country, Meadway said “it’s not a simple either-or or yes-no question”.

“It’s from those either-or questions. You can present cases either ways. There are some estimates out there that you go through the potential loss of trade, the damage to perhaps the labor market, salary issues… The other way of looking at this of course is you might think that the EU is itself a burden on the rest of the economy, it costs a large amount of money to remain as a member, that it might have all sorts of consequences in labor markets – that would be UKIP and Nigel Farage’s argument. And you might argue the benefits go the other way. Either way you look at it it’s not a simple either-or or yes-no question. It’s going to depend on who you want to argue for and whose interest you want to look for. And that’s probably going to inform most people’s judgments when it comes to a referendum.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.