Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 05, 2013

How party realignment begins

Or perhaps how party realignment continues. The success of the Lib Dems in the last election was a demonstration of voters' frustrations with the largest parties. Growing support for UKIP may be a sign of even greater frustrations (and new UKIP leadership).

Will these changes affect more than policies? If the UK withdraws from the EU, will it dissolve the new Supreme Court? Will the PM gain new powers?

U.K. Independence Party finds its voice amid growing anti-immigrant wave
For the United Kingdom Independence Party, defeat has never looked this much like victory.

After a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Commons was jailed on criminal charges, this struggling railroad town near the English Channel held a special election to pick his successor. The anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) took up the challenge, setting up offices next to a Turkish kebab shop and narrowly losing its bid to win its first elected seat in the British Parliament.

Its best-yet showing in a national race has, nevertheless, thrust into the national limelight a political movement that is part of a wave of anti-immigrant populism surging across Europe. The outcome of the Feb. 28 vote, coupled with national polls showing UKIP support at an all-time high, seemed to terrify Britain’s three traditional parties…

UKIP’s ability to spark a policy stampede without even winning a seat in Parliament underscores the increasing capability of anti-immigrant forces to set the agenda amid Europe’s economic malaise…

Although not wholly new — Britain’s top parties have for years been leaning toward tougher immigration policies— observers say the steps taken since the Independence Party’s surge have amounted to some of the most aggressive yet…

Nigel Farage
[UKIP] was founded in the 1990s by British politicians furious about London’s acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union. Today, the party is led by the spiffily dressed Nigel Farage — a savvy, speaks-in-sound-bites politician known for his dry sense of British humor. Although he is campaigning heavily for Britain to leave the E.U., his wife is a German national. Under his leadership, the party has largely avoided the racially and religiously tinged jabs against Muslim immigrants taken by, say, the Nationalists in France.

Rather, UKIP ascribes to a school of thought always just under the surface in Britain — that this is a nation that is culturally apart from Europe and has no business being part of that exotic world across the English Channel. Those sentiments have been exacerbated by an influx of hundreds of thousands of Europeans — mostly from the east…
[I]n recent years, the Independence Party’s successes were largely limited to securing a few seats in the European Parliament… The party’s best shot at national office came here in Eastleigh, where UKIP came second with 27.8 percent of the vote…
Due in part to an electoral system that makes it relatively hard for smaller parties to win seats in Parliament, UKIP faces an uphill battle to enter the House of Commons in the next national elections, in 2015. But the close race in Eastleigh has the party energized to launch a national campaign…

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