7 Assembly Members! Seven!
If 2014 was the year UKIP established its first foothold in Westminster, 2016 was the election cycle that the Party placed both hands and both feet on the rock face in Wales.
Last Thursday, UKIP’s Welsh insurgency became a fall blown revolution. With 7 out of 60 AMs, UKIP has the opportunity to impress itself upon the Welsh political landscape and, by proxy, demonstrate that it can operate as a coherent political force in a domestic legislature.
Having a solid group of AMs will allow UKIP to establish its credentials away from its fairly distant (to most members of the public) presence in Brussels. With established political performers like Mark Reckless and Neil Hamilton ensconced in Cardiff Bay, UKIP’s new elected officials have a real opportunity to show that they can be a political force to be reckoned with.
Throw in two seats in the London Assembly and last Thursday was a great day for UKIP.
But will this be the sunshine before the storm?
The EU Referendum is just over six weeks away. Polls suggest that the result will be far closer than many suspected, but it looks likely that the UK will vote to remain in the EU.
It would clearly be foolish to suggest that a ‘Remain’ vote will kill UKIP as a political party. A cursory glance north will show that failure to win a referendum does not automatically spell the end of a political philosophy.
But UKIP’s entire Welsh campaign was based around the idea of strengthening the ‘Leave’ voice ahead of June’s referendum. And with limited policy competencies devolved to the Welsh Assembly, is it really the most relevant place for the party to build a base of support? Once the referendum is done and dusted, will transportation and health really be policy areas through which UKIP can establish itself as more than just a party of protest?
Throw into the mix today’s emerging UKIP civil war over who will lead the party in the Assembly – Neil Hamilton was chosen by UKIP’s AMs as its assembly leader over UKIP’s centrally appointed Welsh Leader Nathan Gill – and the question begs to be asked: has the rock already started to crumble beneath UKIP’s fledgling Welsh adventure?