• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

WI: Longer lasting Referendum Party

Nomad

Well-known member
The Referendum Party was a single issue party that briefly existed in the UK during the 1990s, with pretty much the sole aim of forcing a referendum on Britiain's membership of the EU. Although the investment of its founder, millionaire James Goldsmith, meant that it was well resourced for a new party, and was able to run candidates in the majority of seats at the 1997 election, it nevertheless performed poorly, only winning 2.6% of the vote. Goldsmith died of cancer shortly after, and the party was wounded up later that year.

Had the party stuck around for a little longer (Goldsmith not dying seems the most likely PoD) and contested the 1999 European Parliament Elections, it would seem to me that they would be well positioned to benefit from the eurosceptic protest vote, and, in the long run, become main anti-EU party in British politics.

So my questions are; how would UK politics be effected in the long run if the Referendum Party, rather than UKIP, were the major eurosceptic force? How would it develop over the following decades? Could they be as successful, and eventually make a breakthrough in domestic politics, and if not, what, if anything would fill the vacuum?
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
So for sake of argument, lets assume that Goldsmith dies two years later, so a couple of months after the European Elections instead of the General Election. UKIP were miles behind the Referendum party in 1997, so they probably start shedding members to Referendum and may fold entirely, though I wouldn't be surprised if they hang on until 1999. If they do, they might end up running a joint list or serving as a splitter, but the better funded, higher profile Referendum Party probably still storms through to get those three seats that UKIP got OTL.

Actually having elected representatives might well mean that the party is able to survive Goldsmith's death, and especially if UKIP has completely folded by this point as 'surplus to requirements', though the different personalities at the top could well mean it's not as able to capitalise on some things - I'm not sure if the Referendum Party would actually go down the same anti-immigrant route for example, though that might be an inevitable consequence of the 2004 enlargement on the Euroskeptic parties.

One interesting effect in all this is that even assuming Farage joins the Referendum Party post-1997, I suspect he wouldn't be given a top position on any of the lists for 1999 (he might well get on as the only UKIP candidate to save his deposit however) and this could well short circuit his career entirely.
 

moth

Mothleton
Location
Portsmoth
Who are the most likely MEPs? Presumably Goldsmith himself, but the only other Referendum person I can think of would be the bloke supposedly descended from Spencer Perceval.
McAlpine comes to mind, as does Mike Nattrass, Jeffrey Titford, Tom Wise, and Robin Page, followed by the likes of John Aspinall, Robin Birley, Peter de Savary, David Bellamy, John Bufton, which should give you a general idea of what shape the party would take.
 

TheIO

Hamster Warrior of Holyrood
Patreon supporter
McAlpine comes to mind, as does Mike Nattrass, Jeffrey Titford, Tom Wise, and Robin Page, followed by the likes of John Aspinall, Robin Birley, Peter de Savary, David Bellamy, John Bufton, which should give you a general idea of what shape the party would take.
George Gardiner MP would likely be on the list, but that probably reinforces the point.
 

Nomad

Well-known member
The rise of the Referendum Party, is going to be a real kick in the teeth for William Hague.
I doubt they would really trouble a Hague leadership. What I have in mind is them essentially playing UKIPs role- starting out as a party that doesn't really have much significance beyond European Elections, but possibly becoming more prominent at a domestic level over time.
 

Mumby

Always mysterious!
Published by SLP
Location
Municipal Commune of Bourne
Pronouns
He/Him
I doubt they would really trouble a Hague leadership. What I have in mind is them essentially playing UKIPs role- starting out as a party that doesn't really have much significance beyond European Elections, but possibly becoming more prominent at a domestic level over time.
But they get their kickstart that much earlier and I have to say a Referendum Party would be much more like the Monday Club maede flaesh than having any of the RedKip tendencies that could be observed from UKIP in OTL. And I would have though that Referendum might get a shot in the arms by attempts at modernisation within the Tories.
 

moth

Mothleton
Location
Portsmoth
I doubt they would really trouble a Hague leadership. What I have in mind is them essentially playing UKIPs role- starting out as a party that doesn't really have much significance beyond European Elections, but possibly becoming more prominent at a domestic level over time.
Given how much trouble UKIP wrecked on Hague IoTL, posing a threat to the already delicate balance he had to find in regards to Europe without tearing his battle beaten party apart, a more explicitly Tory-Alternative Party via Referendum could really screw him up.
 

Nomad

Well-known member
But they get their kickstart that much earlier and I have to say a Referendum Party would be much more like the Monday Club maede flaesh than having any of the RedKip tendencies that could be observed from UKIP in OTL. And I would have though that Referendum might get a shot in the arms by attempts at modernisation within the Tories.
I'm not sure Redkip was ever really a thing. A lot of people talked about it, but it never properly existed because, although some Ukippers liked the idea, hardly any of them actually believed in economic interventionism out of principle rather than because it appealed to the electorate. Most of its major public figures were ex-Tories (and Farage was a Thatcherite in any case).

When it came down to it, UKIP were not that much different from the Monday Club (updated for the 21st Century). They might have had an appeal to economically left wing Labour voters (mainly post-2010), but then again, so did Enoch Powell.

If anything, I think that the single issue nature of the Referendum Party would make it harder to pick up Tory voters. They'd need to fundamentally reform what their party was about before they could adopt policies in other areas like restoring grammar schools and traditional counties and all that other stuff that UKIP were in favour of and seemed to go down well in the Tory shires.
 

Uhura's Mazda

In other words, improper.
Published by SLP
Location
Tamaki Makaurau
One knock-on would involve the BNP, which attempted to use entryist tactics on UKIP in the late 90s. IOTL Farage was the main reason UKIP withstood the fascist takeover.

So here, the BNP either target Referendum or UKIP. If the latter and Farage has gone to Referendum, they probably succeed. If the former, I guess it's more up for grabs.
Redkip exists but it doesn't have any actual leaders on the political stage is my impression.
Scruffy Duffy was the main one, and didn't have a high profile outside of Cambridgeshire (where her branch controlled a parish council which was the only experience UKIP had of governing before the 2015 (I think) locals).
 

Nomad

Well-known member
One knock-on would involve the BNP, which attempted to use entryist tactics on UKIP in the late 90s. IOTL Farage was the main reason UKIP withstood the fascist takeover.

So here, the BNP either target Referendum or UKIP. If the latter and Farage has gone to Referendum, they probably succeed. If the former, I guess it's more up for grabs.
The BNP might not see any point trying to target UKIP in this scenario. They would be a extremely minor party with arguably less appeal than the BNP themselves. I'd imagine UKIP would collapse as soon as Referendum had estabilished themselves at the EP elections-or before, lets face it, the wheels could have come off at any point.
 

Uhura's Mazda

In other words, improper.
Published by SLP
Location
Tamaki Makaurau
The BNP might not see any point trying to target UKIP in this scenario. They would be a extremely minor party with arguably less appeal than the BNP themselves. I'd imagine UKIP would collapse as soon as Referendum had estabilished themselves at the EP elections-or before, lets face it, the wheels could have come off at any point.
Yes, so it's a question of whether Referendum are more resilient to their tactics. I think it would be more of a shambles, because Referendum wouldn't have the benefit of party institutions built up over the previous three-four years, but would ultimately come to the same outcome due to weight of numbers. The shambles aspect may well shape public perceptions of the party because they'd be leaking all over the place, and that may have an impact on the 1999 Euros.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
Yes, so it's a question of whether Referendum are more resilient to their tactics. I think it would be more of a shambles, because Referendum wouldn't have the benefit of party institutions built up over the previous three-four years, but would ultimately come to the same outcome due to weight of numbers. The shambles aspect may well shape public perceptions of the party because they'd be leaking all over the place, and that may have an impact on the 1999 Euros.
I don't think that would matter for the '99 Euros, it was seen as a joke election with the lowest turnout of any national election in British history; if we'd had an England-wide constituency so a lower effective threshold, I suspect a fair few you-bait parties would have got in like the Continuity Liberals.

People didn't start paying attention to UKIP until and as a result of '99, IIRC. (Well, in my experience most people didn't know they existed until Kilroy joined them, but that's more a matter of scale).
 
Top