The talk of defeating UKIP is simply unrealistic. Their vote will probably shrink the closer we get to the general election and they may not win any parliamentary seats next year. However, they are here to stay, UKIP resonates with a large minority of the population and I don't think any of the main parties can cater to those who like UKIP's populist anti establishment rhetoric.
Labour can only win over a small percentage of UKIP supporters. The Labour Party cannot and should not appeal to the majority of people that voted UKIP in the recent elections. A large group of them don't normally vote or are ex-Lib Dems who just don't like 'mainstream' politics and never will. There are 'Blue-kippers' who will Tory if not UKIP. Lastly, in the recent elections it is clear that they received support from those who used to vote BNP, English Democrat and other nationalist parties.
Regardless of the policies that Labour puts forward we will not win over the groups of people mentioned above. So how can Miliband win back traditional Labour voters who opted for UKIP in these elections?
Racists, Fascist, Right-wing or even more Thatcherite than Lady Thatcher herself:
It does work and its not accurate. It alienates UKIP voters and may only further entrenches them, this is just name calling and isn't going to persuade people. UKIP aren't racist and it's not racist to argue for greater controls on immigration. Do racist people vote for them? yes. Are some of their candidates racist? yes. But that doesn't mean we should brand them racist. As for labelling them right-wing I just don't think it applies, there a populist movement who don't really fit on the left-right scale. Like most populists they transcend social classes and rely more on charismatic leadership than specific policies. In fact as UKIP try to appeal to more Labour supporters I suspect they will shift to the left on issues such as health, taxation and welfare. Lastly, branding them more Thatcherite than Thatcher might work in the North but here in South Essex that comparison will do Labour campaigners no favours.
We should talk about the benefits of being in the EU and of migration. It's an attack against UKIP, and a perfectly justifiable one. When Blair said UKIP wasn't a party of the 21st century I agreed. However, I don't think its really a solution as it doesn't attempt to persuade anyone. Perhaps somewhat admirable it is strong commitment to internationalist ideas yet anyone espousing it is bound to be labelled a member of the metropolitan elite. Labour had a great result in London but we need to perform better in areas in the East of England if we want a Labour government we can't pursue this out of touch message.
'Labour Answers' to 'UKIP Questions':
This seems to be the most interesting and effective way of winning back Labour supporters from UKIP. It's about a positive vision of a future Britain and it genuinely addresses problems caused by immigration but with different solutions to those espoused by Farage. Miliband accepted long before the rise of UKIP that Labour 'got it wrong'. This is about accepting that the pace of change seemed to fast for many people born in this country. Therefore, we need to increase efforts to effectively integrate migrants into this country. Multiculturalism should be about a mix of cultures in a community not a patchwork of separate communities. This approach also involves dealing with the negative consequences of migration on wages and employment. Once again, Labour seems to be beginning to address these issues from a social democratic perspective.
Labour can only reach out to a small percentage of UKIP voters, it should try. Calling them racists or boldly committing ourselves to globalisation will not work. Only by engaging with these people with creditable and sensible policies can Miliband hope to win them back - even if he can that doesn't mean UKIP will cease to exist.