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What's The Appeal Of UKIP In London?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 26 months ago
What's The Appeal Of UKIP In London?

ukip

We've crunched the demographics here at Londonist, and going by the usual descriptors of a UKIP voter (over 55, not been to university) we're willing to bet most of you will not be marking your cross next to Nigel Farage's party come 7 May. Some of you might be snorting at the very idea, ready to post links in the comments to articles such as this in the Guardian, which says that the more financially literate someone is, the more positive their views on immigration. Or this Telegraph article on the economic benefits of migrants. 'Of course,' you may huff. 'If voters only understood the facts, they'd never vote UKIP.'

But this would be to dismiss the voting intentions of over a quarter of the electorate in some parts of London — particularly in the south east and eastern outer boroughs. London may not be UKIP's natural stomping ground, and proved less than fertile territory during the European elections, but there is a sizeable section of the capital that will vote purple. It won't be enough to return an MP, but if momentum holds we could easily see another Assembly Member — or two — back at City Hall next year.

We meet Lawrence Webb, a UKIP member of 18 years' standing, Havering councillor and the party's candidate at the last mayoral election, in Romford. It's an area, he says, which thinks of itself not as London but as Essex. That's as may be but Hornchurch and Upminster, where he's standing, is officially London and when the 2014 council elections are overlayed by constituency, it voted 26% for UKIP. What's driving that vote? "Looking at the European elections we got 43% of the vote, so clearly there's a sentiment here which is Eurosceptic. For a long time I've been talking about a revolution in the mindset of the electorate and it's well and truly under way. When we're out leafleting people will wave their hand and say 'I don't need one, I'm voting for you'."

LawrenceWebbBut it can't be just Europe that's behind such a surge in popularity, we say. What about the idea that the public are fed up with the mainstream political status quo and are looking for something different, whether that be UKIP on the right or Green on the left? "It's different for different voters," Lawrence thinks. "But the desire for change is the same. People are fed up. They’ve listened to the promises of Cameron and they don’t believe him any more. There’s a disconnect between what’s perceived as the establishment and the rest of us. They don’t see any real difference between Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. There’s no doubt that there is a backlash against the political class."

Keith Fraser, another UKIP parliamentary candidate, agrees. "I think the rise of UKIP has allowed people to see that it’s not all the same. People know that mainstream politicians say one thing and do another and people are getting fed up with it. I’m not a hypocrite. You either stand for what you believe in or you don’t, and I don’t want to stand for something I don’t believe in."

Keith is standing in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott's constituency. Though UKIP fares best in the outer boroughs — possibly because they're less 'urbanised' than inner London, and urban areas tend more towards the left — the New Statesman's election website tips UKIP to come second in seats in Hackney and Lewisham. UKIP only stood two candidates for the council elections in Hackney so it's hard to predict how the vote will go (though in the European elections, the Greens got more than three times the UKIP vote in Hackney). So we're slightly sceptical about this prediction; though, as Lawrence says, "where there’s no real opposition, UKIP could come second with only a few thousand votes", but it's not just the Conservatives who are losing votes to the party. "UKIP is picking up votes from both blue and red teams," he adds.

Lawrence points to Harold Hill as an area where UKIP is taking votes from the left, saying it's traditionally a Labour area. This is partially true. Harold Hill is covered by Gooshays and Heaton wards, which returned five UKIP councillors in 2014 (only two UKIP candidates stood in Heaton; the other returned councillor was from Labour, who came in third). However, it's not exactly solid socialist territory. In 2010, Heaton returned three Labour councillors and Gooshays two Conservatives and one Labour, but both wards saw a high BNP vote: two candidates stood in each ward and came seventh and eighth, behind Labour and the Tories and in front of the single UKIP candidates. Gooshays returned a BNP councillor in 2006, alongside two Conservatives. (The BNP vote appears to have collapsed by 2014.) We have to go back to 2002 to find both wards returning a clean sweep of Labour councillors. Make of that what you will.

Onto the issues. Or rather, the issue. Because we wanted to produce a rounded picture of UKIP in London, we really did. But everything we ask about — housing, transport, jobs — seems to come back to immigration. At one point we even say: are we misreading you, is this really what you want to talk about? Yes.

"The government’s own website says that the number of foreign nationals registering for a National Insurance number last year is 768,000. That’s the number of people coming into the country in the year," says Lawrence.

Lawrence presses a leaflet on us and urges us to check out a link, which takes us to the DWP website (PDF) and the numbers he's talking about. Except this document clearly explains that the number of people registering for a National Insurance number is not the same as the number of people coming in. 624,000 people immigrated to the UK in the year to September 2014 (that includes 82,000 British nationals 'coming back'). 327,000 people left, meaning net long-term migration was actually 298,000. That's the number of extra people in the UK last year. It's more than the year before, but still below the previous peak of 320,000 in 2005.

He continues: "Even if you spread it across the country, the population of Havering is 200,000 or thereabouts so you’re getting three times that coming into the country each and every year. Even if you’ve just got an extra 3,000 people here, we haven’t built 3,000 houses in the last year." He may have more of a point here, but we'll come back to this.

Keith Fraser

Keith also warms to the subject. "Our population has increased 5%* in a year," he says. "Is it any wonder that the NHS is bursting at the seams, that there’s a shortage of housing? It’s basic economics. When you’ve got a flood of people coming in, we’ve got to see how much we can afford. It’s economics, it’s not racism. Boris Johnson talks a lot about the fact we’ve been allowing lower-skilled labour to come in from the EU because we have to. He’s also said that if people want to work in this country they should learn English. When UKIP say it, they’re racist!"

Lawrence adds: "It’s almost impossible for a council to set a meaningful budget when they don’t know how many people are going to be living here next year." (He's currently putting forward a motion that Havering council shouldn't do business with companies that don't pay full UK tax. "If the government had more money in its coffers maybe it could give some more to local authorities and we could actually do something," he says.)

"It’s supply and demand and wage compression," Lawrence continues. "People in areas like Harold Hill would traditionally get work on sites but a few years ago the painters and decorators were upset because their rates came down from £90 a day to £70 a day, and the governor told them he could get a Bosnian for £50. It’s the mass of unskilled workers that have come in that are the problem. And of course they want to live somewhere. And it’s cheaper to rent here than a couple of stops further into town. Cost of transport going up, journey times go up, cost of housing going up, everything seems to be going up except people’s wages. And there are more people here than there were five years ago."

The problem with this focus on immigration is that it's too simplistic. For a start, of the 624,000 people who immigrated last year, 292,000 were non-EU citizens, for whom the UK does have visa restrictions. 251,000 were non-British EU citizens; some of those would still be allowed in under a points-based system. Many are students. Immigration just will not be reduced as much as UKIP claim.

Secondly, the idea that immigration is a magic bullet that will cure all our ills misses the complexity of many of our issues. Public transport is packed partly because of a growing population, but also because of decades of under-investment. Fares are expensive because someone needs to pay for that investment and government is increasingly passing that burden onto passengers. The NHS is struggling because of lots and lots of factors. The housing crisis is a nightmare tangle of causes: decades of building fewer houses than we need, the decline of the social housing sector and a shift towards seeing property as an investment rather than something to live in to name but a few.

Photo by Rion Nakaya from the Londonist Flickr pool

We end up chatting with Keith about housing costs and gentrification — Stoke Newington being one of the major gentrification spots of recent years. "I know that the area, for the better in some ways, has been gentrified with a lot of new developments and people moving in — the haves, as opposed to the have nots," he says. "This obviously creates problems and leads to a housing shortage. The Tories have cut down on benefits which makes it even harder for people to be housed in the constituency. Having said that, while I believe we have to look after the have nots, why should the government pay for housing benefits to the tune of several hundred a week in an area that’s expensive, when they can be housed in an area that’s cheaper? With Crossrail you can get from the east to the west in a very quick time, so people who won’t necessarily be able to live down in Tottenham Court Road will be able to live further out and get into the centre in minutes."

But this idea is pushing people on lower incomes into the same outer boroughs where Lawrence says they're feeling the housing crisis — the Haverings, the Barnets, the Enfields — and putting pressure on local services in a similar way to an influx of overseas immigrants. We can't work out why one is acceptable but the other not.

So we'll end where we started: the voters. There's no doubt that people have concerns about housing, jobs, transport, and no longer trust the usual suspects to do anything about them. Once you filter out what Keith calls "a few idiots... people who say the most ridiculous things, a few racist things", it's easy to see how a party that calls bullshit on the mainstream and promises to look after its own would be attractive. The problem is that things are just a bit more complicated than that. UKIP politics may be working well for the residents of Havering (they've recently got 20 minutes' free parking outside Romford town centre) but this focus on immigration — other UKIP policies are available, but less widely aired — isn't enough to solve our problems.

*We've looked at the numbers on this: London's population increased 3.6% between 2013 and February 2015 and as already noted, net migration to the UK in 2014 was 298,000 which is 0.5% of the total population.

Last Updated 05 April 2015

bedfordjohn

The Tories will lose Hornchurch and Upminster imo.

cargill55

The 768000 new NI numbers handed out do not include dependents so in fact the figure of total gross immigration related to new NI numbers is significantly higher than that.
The gross and net immigration figures quoted in the article refer to ONS data which has been criticised by the Public Administration Select Committee as not fit for purpose.
The other data not accounted for in ONS immigration figures is the soaring immigrant birth rate, immigrants 13% of the population but almost 30% of all births, so that's a double population growth whammy.
Yes ONS data show all manner of inflows, outflows and types of immigrants but even the census showed our population rose by 4 million from 2001 to 2011, 75% of that due to immigration.
UKIP does not oppose immigration.
It opposes mass open borders immigration which Labour approved of through immediate access to A8 countries and abolition of the primary purpose rule and both they and the Tories accept through EU membership.
Almost 80% of new NI numbers were handed out to EU immigrants and the flood of Bulgarian and Romanian economic refugees forecast by UKIP actually materialised with 187000 new NI numbers handed out to immigrants from these countries in the year to December 2014.
Mass open borders immigration has an appalling impact on housing, jobs, wages, social cohesion, state services and costs and public infrastructure.
Even the Association of Teachers and Lecturers says that British pupils are being disadvantaged because of the scale of non English speaking pupils in schools now.
UKIP wants immigration but it wants it controlled by a sovereign government and the sooner the simplistic MSM propagandists tell the truth about UKIP and its supporters the better.

ManOfKent

Some of you might be snorting at the very idea, ready to post links in the comments to articles such as this in the Guardian, which says that the more financially literate someone is, the more positive their views on immigration.

ROFLMAO Financially literate in the Guardian? These are the clowns who cheered Labour on as they wrecked the economy!

What they mean is that the more wealthy someone is (e.g. London's champagne socialists, Bufton Tufton Tories and elitist Pimm's liberals) the more likely they are to employ (prey on) cheap pliant dependent overseas labour to improve their own selfish greedy lives that is.. No chance of the living wage for them!

Of course the other thing that Londoner's conveniently forget is that they have had more per capita of the taxpayers money showered on them over the last decade than any other part of England. Add to that the wealthy big business and finance sectors based in the capital and its not hard to see why London is the exception to our economic crisis and not the rule. They are the one part of the nation that is probably still capable of being able to afford to absorb such migrant flows.

Whatever London's problems are, the problems elsewhere are far higher except for one. Its not just foreign immigration that London suffers from but migration from all parts of the country undermining the other regions and creating all the issues that overcrowding causes within London's boroughs. It is causing increasing imbalance geographically in our society and our economy. It is this that also needs to be dealt with.

Perhaps as well as restricting immigration, the congestion charge should not just apply to cars. Perhaps new arrivals in London should also pay a surcharge for the first 10 years they live there. 25% of the council tax say. Something needs to be done to stop London's overpopulation and the easiest way to stop it is to tax people. We must stop our society polarising around London.

The other point is the more immigrants we receive net the more people there are to share in the supposed growth of our economy (and its hardly growth if its fueled by debt. Its just putting off reality until another day. Its just buying time). So more immigration might mean our economy inflates but few become more prosperous as a result. In fact its arguable that mass immigration will force wage rates to stagnate and domestic development of such required skills as the migrants possess to decline resulting in dependency on immigrant labour (and if it does not come then what?).

Restricting immigration isn't the be all and end all of any of our issues. It is no panacea but the point is it is probably one of the easiest too address (if the establishment political and media classes stopped prevaricating about it). How else for example would we control population growth? State enforced euthanasia (genocide) of the old perhaps or restricting all women to having only one child else they face prosecution, fines and worse? Neither is morally, socially or politically acceptable and never would be in this country. The simple reality is controlling immigration is the most acceptable way of kick starting the turn around in this country, taking pressure off employment, housing and public services and if people cannot understand that they need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. In fact it is probably the only reliable way to impact our population growth. After all over 200 countries and even the EU as an entity practice immigration control. its only the muggins nations within the EU that don't. If its the right thing for the rest of the world to do then its good enough for the UK. Whatever other actions need to be undertaken to put this country back on the right track, comprehensive immigration control and significantly lower net immigration levels (which will still likely mean some 300,000 immigrants gross entering this country every year, halving gross immigration and reducing net immigration by some thing like 75-90%) are a mandatory requirement.

PS That the Home Office has failed repeatedly to control non EU immigration only speaks to its long term dysfunctionality and unfitness for purpose as a Government department and the abysmal failure of successive Home Secretaries and Immigration Ministers. If any government department requires dismantling and its functions re-purposed and reallocated it is the dysfunctional, outdated, outmoded and incompetent Home Office. it is not fit for purpose.

notaracist

20+ seats are on the cards

shortsands

Voters turning back to Labour after UKIP deal with nasty Tories !

ceedoubleu

The Ukip racist scum will win nothing in London.

Tokyo Sexwale

It's a FACT (must be a fact because it's in capitals) that immigrants are responsible for:

- My son falling over and getting a bruise on his head.
- The roof on my shed needing to be replaced.
- Bashar Al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Phillips being a total bellends.
- Why it took me fifteen minutes to find my car keys this morning.

It's either immigrants or The Gays. Possibly gay immigrants.

Havering A Great Time

Romford is officially in London. Opinion polls show that more Romfordians consider themselves Londoners than those that consider themselves Essex People.
Some people say Romford is postally in Essex. Incorrect. Check any Romford postal address on Royal Mail's address or postcode finder, not one will have the word Essex in the finished article.