‘I typically see these young people as being radical and wanting radical change. Only we [UKIP] can give them that’.
Jamie Ross McKenzie is Chairman of the Youth Wing of The United Kingdom Independence Party.
On Jamie Ross McKenzie’s Facebook page is a picture of himself and Nigel Farage, both smiling equally confidently while wearing purple caps, similar to those worn by Donald Trump supporters, that say ‘Make Britain Great Again’.
The victors of 2016 didn’t begin joyously. They were the insurgency. They were the unpredictables. They were likely to face defeat.
In a Shout Out UK poll before the EU Referendum, 64 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds said they would vote to remain within the European Union. Jamie McKenzie believes that if 64 per cent voted Remain, that ‘leaves 36 per cent who are quite open to us [UKIP]. And if you break that down, that’s even higher for working-class young people’.
In a battle cry to the younger voter, McKenzie proclaimed: ‘I typically see these young people as being radical and wanting radical change. Only we [UKIP] can give them that’.
But what radical change can UKIP now deliver. Brexit was the most radical political change in recent history, and with Therese May now adopting some UKIP policies, is there any room for the Independence Party?
A source close to UKIP accepted that the party faces ‘some of these issues’. The source also said however, that there are still other issues, ‘like culture, that Therese May won’t touch with a bargepole’. UKIP also doubt that the Prime Minister will implement some of the policies she has ‘talked about’. The source further added: ‘Mrs May has a form of saying one thing and doing another’.
In recent weeks in Westminster there has been talk of UKIP concentrating their election campaign to ‘six seats’, in an effort to be more successful than in 2015 when a nationwide effort resulted in only one seat.
When I asked Mr McKenzie of these plans, he accepted they were being considered. I asked him if he thought they would provide a better result in 2020: ‘Yes, absolutely’.
‘And we also have the added benefit of making sure MPs don’t betray their constituents in the meantime and vote accordingly in Parliament’.
UKIP hope that whipping up the anti-establishment feeling which they stirred in 2016, can now earn them votes in the constituencies that voted leave.
‘But, you know, the Leave vote was also a real kick by people who have not only been ignored but have also been demonised by the establishment. I think it was illustrated how at odds our representatives are with the views of ordinary people. That, I think, will irreversibly change people’s tribal loyalties to parties. It also utterly embarrassed the political and media elite and people will have the taste for more’.
Inspired by Trump and Ukip’s new strategy, Paul McKenzie believes that their new target voter is the individual who ‘Labour have now failed and the Tories long ago discarded’. McKenzie was inferring to the working class, whom many see as great advocates of the anti-establishment mood and a source of rapid change seen this year. But what kind of change they want precisely, is yet to be vocalised.
Hope is a powerful thing in politics. Paul McKenzie thinks that the run-up to Brexit, ‘gave a lot of people hope that things really can change’. The Leave vote was caused by an anti-establishment rhetoric coupled with the hope that change was possible.
Amidst the exciting and unprecedented political ‘revolutions’, 2016 has shown a terrible loss of the people’s trust in mainstream media and other established institutions that have previously dictated political campaigns. Simultaneous though, the evolution of social media, despite its advantages, has led to grave concerns regarding the idea that ‘fake news’ can easily be spread and influence voters.
Admittedly, I was concerned when I heard Jamie’s response to my fake news question. In all the anti-establishment rhetoric I advocate, I only advance it through honest debate based on facts. All politicians should stand up for the necessity of responsible news reporting, instead of just brandishing the issue as an establishment stitch-up. Otherwise, elections will merely be won based on who tells the most ‘believable lies’.
‘Fake news is simply a rouse for censoring views on the internet and social media that certain people don’t like. The establishment, I think, have realised that social media has become a powerful — and for them dangerous — tool for driving debate which they no longer have any control over whatsoever. No longer does lunch with the hack make any difference, nor dinner with the editor.
Churchill once said. “there’s no such thing as public opinion, only published opinion”. Well, now everyone is a publisher, their views aren’t confined to the living room or the barstool. I do think UKIP must embrace it and make better use of it, and I certainly think this is one way of getting our message to younger voters.
This “fake news” scare does concern me. It’s just one thing in a long line of instances where governments are trying to work with social media companies to censor views’.
The need for deepened debate and information has been replaced by an irresistible urge, created by the politicians, for short, sharp soundbites that voters love to hear. Take Back Control was a great example. But are they ruining political debate, are they quashing the voices of intellectuals for passionate and inflamed and emotive arguments? Or are they a means for good, allowing more and more people to understand otherwise complex issues?
McKenzie: ‘Well, I think politically, yes. You need something short that rounds up the whole movement. But I think people are tired of soundbites’.
Do you think though that at times, if there is a view that is clearly racist or sexist, that it shouldn’t be allowed to be published on social media?
‘I think anything that incites violence cannot be defended and must be removed. I worry that the goalposts for what can be considered “sexist” and “racist” can be too easily moved. There are some deluded people that call shops in North London named “Really British” or “Brexit” racist; I wouldn’t fancy them being in charge of what I can and can’t say on social media.
In response to the current legal battles in the courts over Brexit: It was made clear by both sides that a Leave vote would mean leaving the single market. And I think people overwhelmingly voted to stop free movement. If that isn’t granted, it will be a huge betrayal’.
In terms of historic political shifts, 2016 may just be the start. 2017, a year filled with elections in Italy, France and Austria, poses a direct threat to the EU and its future stability.
‘I would expect a lot to turn to UKIP en masse.
In Italy, I think the 5-Star movement will make big inroads. I think this is very exciting and I hope UKIP pays close attention. I think direct democracy is certainly something we should consider if we want to stay relevant. The referendum showed how empowered people are when the question is put to them directly and their vote has a real consequence. I think given the disconnect between representatives and the people there can be real appetite for this.
‘Revolutionary in fact. I certainly think it will appeal to younger voters who feel disenfranchised’.
However, McKenzie is not completely caught up in the haste with which his own revolution is spreading: ‘[In] France I doubt Marine Le Pen will get past the second round, but it’s possible she’ll come first in the first round. I’m sure the FPO will win the elections in Austria. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the Green president.’