Hysterical and unconvincing reactions to UKIP

The Evening Standard emailed me, asking for a couple of hundred words on the reaction to UKIP candidates’ comments in the run-up to the 2014 European elections. They didn’t use the first version, here is the second:

Recent UKIP comments about Lenny Henry and Islam have prompted reactions from politicians, media and Twitter motormouths alike that range from unconvincing mock outrage to headless-chicken hysteria.

Unfortunately, this is merely highlighting the total lack of a coherent message on the part of UKIP’s opponents.

All that people are hearing are the UKIP comments, which they are starting to believe because they are not being presented with an alternative.

This means that UKIP is setting the agenda, deciding timing and getting all the publicity. But merely disagreeing with UKIP is not enough: pointing and hysterically shouting “he’s wrong” is playground politics at best and people are not convinced by it.

As someone who thinks that immigration is usually beneficial to the country, and that membership of the EU has more advantages than disadvantages, the lack of a convincing political campaign along those lines is very disappointing.

When are the mainstream parties going to start presenting a positive message? Or are they just going to let this joke party and its comedy leader set the tone for the whole election?

I was then asked about Clegg launching the LibDem manifesto and replied:

There was one major problem with Clegg’s launch of the LibDem manifesto: nobody was listening. It went largely unnoticed by the public because he has so little authority now that people don’t notice when he or his party is talking.

Him taking on Farage in the TV debates only worked for die-hard LibDem supporters. For everyone else, Clegg lost those debates and lost badly. They did more harm than good because they gave Farage an aura of credibility well beyond what he deserves. They were a huge mistake.

In one of the biggest edits I’ve ever had, that lot got boiled down to this in the paper: