Fed up with the Westminster elite? Want out of Europe? Keen for a tougher stance on immigration? Then UKIP may be the party for you!
Since the party’s success in the European elections earlier this year, and their subsequent triumph in securing their first MP in Parliament, Nigel Farage’s crew appear to be going from strength to strength. Having gained two former Conservatives to join their quest in causing a “political earthquake” within Westminster, UKIP now believe that they are a serious contender in the future of British politics. It is highly likely that more defectors will emerge following the paths of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, which is now a leading concern for the Tories, as well as Labour. With UKIP now targeting 25 seats in next year’s General Election, the party can no longer be branded simply as a bunch of “fruitcakes”.
Not so long ago UKIP were seen as a joke in the eyes of the Government; a protest party that did not cause David Cameron or Ed Miliband much concern. But things have changed. The first significant step in UKIP’s rise was Farage’s success against Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in their televised debates over Europe. For a man who claims not to be a career politician, Farage played politics spectacularly well, calling for the public to reject the Westminster consensus and, in effect, join his league to topple the establishment. The debates between Farage and Clegg were meant to highlight the case for and against our place within the EU; Farage won both debates hands down. Asked how Europe would look in 10 years time by a member of the audience, Clegg’s response of “about the same” sealed his fate.
Since then, UKIP have continued their ‘propaganda’ campaign, which is largely aimed at the disenchanted voter. Disenchantment with the Westminster elite is perhaps the party’s biggest strength at present. Despite Cameron’s confident speech at the recent Conservative Party Conference, where he pledged considerable tax cuts, many still believe that the Tories are the party for the rich. It turns out that the tax benefits the Conservatives have proposed may not come into effect until 2018, creating confusion among the electorate who want to see faster action.
Although Labour have not yet lost any MPs to UKIP, they are not immune from the threat of the Farage Factor either. Again, many doubt the leadership of Ed Miliband and worry that the party do not offer concise policies. It’s true that on Europe, immigration, and even the economy, Labour need to be much clearer. The Liberal Democrats, although in Government, are also partly to blame for the growing disenchantment with popular politics. Clegg may never recover from his U-turn on tuition fees and the party will have difficulty in fighting back from their recent fall in the polls. All this plays well into UKIP’s hands as they are seen to be actively offering an alternative for the voter sat at home fed up with politics and despairing of the tactics deployed by MPs against other parties.
Politicians play politics all the time and UKIP are potentially the best at it. Announcing their latest Tory defector on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference and then presenting a press conference before the Tories had even finished pledging in Birmingham in order to announce that ex-Tory donor Arron Banks was giving the party £1million, was almost a step too far in the game of spin. Farage had previously attacked the Prime Minister believing that he had ordered the recent parliamentary recall on airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq during UKIP’s Party Conference to deliberately deter attention away from the party. One may think that leading the country to war was perhaps slightly more important than game-planning, but it was still seen by UKIP as deliberate timing.
Like it or not UKIP are increasingly believable with their rhetoric. Disenchantment with popular politics is nothing new – Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979 was more to do with Labour’s failings following the ‘Winter of Discontent’ and the fact that she was the only member of Edward Heath’s Cabinet willing to challenge her party’s leader and offer the population dramatic change and a break with consensus. Capitalising on disenchantment is a key way of raising a party’s public profile and UKIP are welcoming the results. With Douglas Carswell now the party’s first elected MP, they truly believe that anything is possible in the future of British politics.
By Emily Stacey