DEBATE: Following the loss of the last council it controlled, is Ukip still relevant?
YES – Christopher T Wells, leader of Thanet District Council
Ukip remains the largest party on Thanet Council. One councillor has departed to join the Conservative party – the party that was recently given the biggest fine for electoral offences in Electoral Commission history, which has an MP about to stand trial for electoral offences, and whose newly elected county councillors have just voted themselves a 15 per cent pay rise. Our purpose as Ukip councillors is simply to provide the best and most responsive council we can, one that has recently won awards for its efficiency and efficacy, and has been at the leading edge of local government reform in East Kent. One that continues to make the hard decisions other parties run away from, and is invited to talk about their experiences at local government conferences. It’s two years until the next election here – with the messes over Brexit, Grenfell Tower, and student fees that both Labour and the Conservatives indulge nationally, who knows what majority we might achieve then.
NO – Kate Andrews, the Institute of Economic Affairs
In order to claim “relevance”, a political party must be both aware of the prominent issues of the day, and be active in addressing them. Ukip currently fails on both accounts. Yes, the party is acutely aware of the status of Brexit – one of the biggest political issues in the UK. But with so much of Ukip’s output focused on immigration, the party comes across as woefully unaware of the bigger challenges that lie ahead as the UK leaves the EU, like negotiating trade policies. Even on the issue of immigration, the party’s extreme stance (pledging, for example, to try to reduce net migration to “zero” within five years) blatantly ignores important issues, like demographic shifts and strains in the workforce. It is extremely difficult to be an active force in politics without a decent share of elected representatives. With no MPs and a downhill trajectory for local representatives, the party no longer has the tools it needs to influence. No doubt, there has been a major loss of appetite – and loss of relevance – for the single-issue party.