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UKIP: Conference Review

NDW Director ventures to the north Wales seaside and finds UKIP conference is a different kettle of fish.

Seaside location? Check. Fundraising stalls? Check. Party faithful out in force? Check.

UKIP's Spring Conference had many of the hallmarks of a traditional party conference but it also had some very significant differences. 

Firstly, that party faithful. Usually an upbeat bunch at any party gathering, enjoying time with friends and a break from knocking doors, but the UKIPpers were in a rather different mood. They were positively bristling with energy. Delighted to be at conference to cheer on their hero-leader, Nigel Farage. 

During his speech, their shouting descended into pantomime as they yelled over and over again "Mr Cameron liar". Nigel Farage gave up trying to shout over them, eventually conceding that "I may lead the People's Army but I can't control them."

This enthusiasm may prove significant in the weeks to come. UKIP activists are highly motivated and passionate about their cause. The same cannot be said of the Remain side who broadly back EU membership with a few caveats. It's difficult to shout campaign slogans when they contain qualifying statements. 

Another major difference was the ease with which UKIP politicians addressed political ills in the UK. Housing crisis in London? Leave the EU and control immigration. Declining fishing industry in Wales? Leave the EU and scrap quotas. Steel crisis? Yep, you guessed it....

While there were some teasing hints about forthcoming health policies from MEP Louise Bours at the Manifesto Marketplace event, there was very little policy detail and no significant policy announcements from UKIP. 

This is symptomatic of where UKIP sits in the political system. Their very existence - and a healthy dose of infighting - means they are not struggling for media coverage. While other parties need a strong news line or a big announcement to get heavy play on the news cycle, that's just not the case for UKIP at the moment. 

This may be okay for now but if the party wins the 9 seats it is currently expected to in the Senedd (and a further 7 in the Scottish Parliament, predicted by MEP David Coburn), it is not sustainable.

UKIP might have many of the markings of a traditional political party but, if this weekend is anything to go by, they are a very different breed. 

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