Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, October 13, 2014

Is UKIP becoming a major party in the UK?

The three major parties and UKIP held their annual conferences recently. The editors at The Economist try to explain how UKIP might become one of the major parties.

The flexible Mr Farage
LIKE many in Heywood and Middleton, two former mill towns outside Manchester, John Bickley is fed up with the Labour Party. It was formed to take on the upper classes but has now joined them, complains this son of a Labour trade unionist as he denounces “Labour’s evil bankers” at Goldman Sachs. Despite appearances, however, he is no socialist. He is the local parliamentary candidate for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a self-described libertarian outfit on the right of British politics.

For years UKIP’s calls for lower immigration, less regulation and withdrawal from the meddlesome European Union have challenged the governing Conservatives…

UKIP hurts the Tories more than it does the opposition Labour Party, but it has started to give them the jitters, too…

How is a defiantly Thatcherite party (whose quotable leader, Nigel Farage, is a pinstriped former commodities trader) now threatening Labour?… the answers tend to show Labour in a bad light.

The first is that the party has become moribund in many of its working-class strongholds…

Labour’s underbelly is softest in precisely those places where voters are receptive to UKIP’s isolationist messages. Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, academics who have studied UKIP’s rise, argue that it thrives among blue collars, grey hair and white skin; that is, in ageing working-class backwaters like Heywood and Middleton where folk feel alienated from the liberal values of the big cities…

UKIP, by contrast, is a suppler gymnast. Its charismatic rejection of the… establishment, embodied by its boozy, cheerful leader, is built on emotion, not policy. That gives it flexibility: it can make a small-state, libertarian pitch to Tory voters and wealthy donors while lambasting private-sector involvement in the NHS in Labour areas like Heywood…

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