Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Changing politics in Britain

This morning, someone asked, in reference to a 2008 blog post, whether the UK was still a neo-corportist state. My response was that probably the UK is less neo-corportist than it was seven years ago.

One of the reasons for my reply was the changes in political parties. The New York Times this morning offered a good example: UKIP.

UKIP Has Changed Britain’s Conversation. Now It Needs a Big Win.
Bunny La Roche
On a crowded street corner, a pink-haired woman named Bunny La Roche squared up to a vicar promising passers-by fewer immigrants and less “dog mess” if they vote for Mr. Farage…

“Racist!” Ms. La Roche shouted, as a crew of “Stand Up to UKIP” campaigners vigorously gestured their agreement.

“Liar!” the vicar, the Rev. Stuart Piper, shouted back. As more insults flew, an elderly man on a mobility scooter motored to the vicar’s defense and into one of Ms. La Roche’s fellow campaigners, who swiftly called the police…

Even by the standards of a candidacy that has played off deep divisions over British identity, it was a tense moment…

Ramsgate is in... a sliver of neglected coastline in southern England where Mr. Farage hopes to win a seat in Parliament on Thursday.

In an election where neither the governing Conservatives nor the opposition Labour Party is expected to command a majority, this has become one of the most closely watched districts in the country — a critical test case for a populist, anti-immigration, anti-European Union party that could yet cost Prime Minister David Cameron his job…

[P]olls suggest that it could win about 12 percent of the national vote, it might end up winning only two seats out of 650.

But by splitting the vote on the right, analysts say, it could deprive Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party of at least two dozen seats and potentially the ability to form a governing coalition.

As for Mr. Farage, the stakes could not be higher: Either he wins and
takes his message from the fringes to the heart of British politics, or he loses and resigns as party chief, spelling a crisis for a movement that has become all but synonymous with his leadership…

Once dismissed as “a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” by Mr. Cameron, UKIP rattled Britain’s political establishment last May by winning nearly 28 percent of the vote in elections for the European Parliament, more than any other party…

While UKIP’s natural base of support tends to be on the right, it is beginning to recruit among traditional Labour voters. “The Champagne socialists that lead the Labour Party have betrayed their core supporters,” said Christine Gall, who said she grew up in a “Socialist household” and was now campaigning for UKIP.

But if Mr. Farage can already claim one victory — shifting the political agenda — there is no certainty that he will win in south Thanet…

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