On the 8th of October the Manchester Debating Union presented the question of whether or not UKIP is a force for good in British politics.
Dr. Rob Ford, a senior lecturer in Politics at Manchester, and author of ‘Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain’, speaking for the proposition, began the debate arguing that UKIP’s presence on the British political scene was essential for a ‘strong democracy’. Although Dr. Ford stated that he did not agree with all of UKIP’s policies, he claimed that excluding UKIP from British politics was undemocratic and “not healthy for the political conversation.”
Ford also contended that UKIP’s emphasis on previously neglected issues, like British membership of the EU and immigration, have transformed them into central debates which all the mainstream parties are now forced to respond to.
Steven Woolfe, UKIP MEP and UKIP’s immigration spokesman, speaking for the proposition, attempted to dispel the image of UKIP as being a source of racism, sexism and political extremism by referring to his mixed ancestry including Black and Jewish heritage. Woolfe also referred to Susan Evans, the UKIP Party Secretary and author of the UKIP manifesto whose importance to UKIP, Woolfe argued, proved the lack of sexist ideas in the party.
For the opposition, Becky Montacute, former President of the MDU, contended that Dr. Ford’s claims that UKIP has brought issues like immigration to the mainstream debate was incorrect. Montacute maintained that all UKIP had achieved was the creation of “unhelpful discussions.” She argued that UKIP was encouraging the unemployed and other vulnerable sections of the electorate to blame economic problems on immigrants.
Student Conor Ardill, also speaking for the opposition, stated that UKIP has not increased the engagement of the public in politics which Dr. Ford argued was the case. Ardill used the 2015 General Election to show that voter turnout only went up by 1 per cent and that therefore UKIP has not attracted a new, previously ignored electorate.
Questions from the audience included if the panel thought that UKIP represented the views of the electorate that supported them. Dr. Ford asserted that UKIP’s anti-EU stance clearly represented the views of those voters wanting to withdraw from Europe. However, Connor Ardill reasoned that the inconsistencies in different UKIP MPs’ rhetoric, particularly with how comments on immigration varied, showed a lack of clear representation for UKIP voters.
In the exit poll the house concluded that UKIP was a force for good in British politics, with the proposition gaining 47 per cent of the audience vote.