Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 21, 2014

The making of a party (in the UK)

Every successful political party must work within the confines of its political culture and political system. UKIP is trying to find out what that means.

Anti-E.U. Party in Britain Strives for Wider Clout
Last month the brash, populist U.K. Independence Party won its first seat in Parliament, capitalizing on resentment against immigration, disenchantment with the European Union and a general disaffection with politicians.

On Thursday, it has a good chance to pick up a second seat…

But even as it finds success, the party is being more or less disowned by its founder, Alan Sked…

Mr. Sked, who teaches at the London School of Economics and Political Science, expressed disdain for the party’s recent anti-immigration focus. He said the party he created had “grown into this hideous, racist, populist, xenophobic, Islamophobic thing.”

Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader
His successors in the leadership deny the accusations of racism and xenophobia, but his criticisms speak to the biggest question facing the party: whether it can overcome its status as an angry, fringe protest movement to become a credible threat to Britain’s three main parties…

According to Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, dislike of the European Union stirs relatively few voters, so the party has “moved towards an anti-immigration — some would say slightly xenophobic — appeal for which there is a bigger market.”…

Mr. Sked attributes the party’s recent success to the unpopular austerity policies of Britain’s government and the fact that the centrist Liberal Democrats — once the recipient of many protest votes — govern in coalition with the Conservatives. He says the party is ideologically incoherent but acknowledges its success in presenting itself as an anti-establishment party of protest.

Mr. Bale said it had shown the “ability to morph and to pick and choose its issues.” But he said that may cease to be an advantage. “Once you start getting anywhere near Parliament or government, people start to take you more seriously, ask you harder questions and expect you to be able to answer them,” he said.

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