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Where’s UKIP?

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), MEP for South East England, and The Times’s ‘Briton of the Year’ in 2014. Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Just over five months to go until the Bristol mayoral election and there are plenty of people in the running. There’s incumbent George Ferguson, there’s Labour’s Marvin Rees, there’s a Conservative, a Lib Dem, a Green, and even a few independents (including the former vice-chairman of UKIP Bristol, but more on him another time…) – but no UKIP candidate!

Despite winning almost 4 million votes nationwide in May’s general election, making them Britain’s third party in terms of vote share, they haven’t even bothered picking a candidate to run for the mayoralty of Bristol – a big and important city. London has a UKIP candidate for its upcoming Mayoral election, so why don’t we?

Matt Pitts - the next Mayor of Bristol? Photo: Twitter, @ukipmatt
Matt Pitts – the next Mayor of Bristol?
Photo: Twitter, @ukipmatt

In its profile of all the mayoral candidates, Bristol 24/7 reports that Matt Pitts, country chairman for UKIP under 30s in the Bristol area, is the ‘front-runner’ to be UKIP’s candidate. When the article was published back in September, it was reported that the party would announce its candidate in October. Yet, in the dying days of November, there has been no such announcement and we are getting impatient.

The party doesn’t seem to be particularly organised in Bristol. For instance, the local website hasn’t been updated since May 2014. Nevertheless, UKIP has recently had some electoral success in the area. They came second in the 2014 European Election in Bristol, trailing Labour by just 4%, albeit on a low turnout. At the same time, they gained their first local councillor in Hengrove and came close to taking a few other seats both this year and the last. In the general election, UKIP finished a distant third in three of the four Bristol constituencies and an even more distant fifth in the fourth – Bristol West.

Of course, judging by this evidence, UKIP has no real chance of winning the mayoralty: this is a two-horse race between incumbent George Ferguson and Labour’s Marvin Rees. But that’s no excuse for waiting so long to put up a candidate. After all, they could at least have a decent showing and build a decent base for the future.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has bigger battles to fight than the Bristol mayoral election. Photo: Derek Bennett, Flickr
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has bigger battles to fight than the Bristol mayoral election.
Photo: Derek Bennett, Flickr

So, I hear you cry, just where is UKIP hiding – and why?

Well, I think I might have the answer. It’s all about cash, or, well, a lack of it. UKIP have a funding gap of half a million pounds due to a ‘‘massive overspend during the election’’. They even owe £80,000 to Facebook for advertising costs. As a result, it looks like UKIP aren’t going to waste money they don’t have on an election like this which they can never hope to win. I imagine the party’s eye is on the real prize: a ‘leave’ vote in the upcoming EU referendum. Anything else (barring the imminent Oldham West and Royton by-election in which they could well triumph) is just an expensive distraction.

Latest odds on 2016 Mayoral Election
CandidateOdds
George Ferguson (Bristol 1st)1/2
Marvin Rees (Labour)2/1
Charles Lucas (Conservative)16/1
Tony Dyer (Green)50/1
Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrat)100/1
Laurence Duncan (Independent)100/1
Don’t understand odds? See here.
Source: Ladbrokes, retrieved 27 November 2015