Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, December 02, 2016

Party realignment in the UK?

The major parties in the UK have histories and have provided stability to the electoral system for decades. But changes have shaken the foundations of that system. The Liberal Democrats went from partners in government to an afterthought. Labour has been diminished in the last decade to helpless opposition. And UKIP has risen to be nearly a competitive force. What changes come next?

Paul Nuttall elected as UKIP leader
Paul Nuttall has been elected leader of the UK Independence Party, replacing Nigel Farage.
Nuttall and Farage

The 39-year-old Member of the European Parliament, who served as UKIP's deputy leader for six years, won 62.6% of support among party members.

He promised to "put the great back into Britain" and force the government to "give us a real Brexit"…

In his acceptance speech, Mr Nuttall, a former history lecturer… said: "The country needs a strong UKIP more than ever before. If UKIP is to be an electoral force, there will be an impetus on Theresa May and her government to give us a real Brexit."

He added: "I want to replace the Labour Party and make UKIP the patriotic voice of working people."

Speaking on BBC Two's Daily Politics, Mr Nuttall said the party would be "speaking the language of ordinary working people... we're going to move into the areas the Labour Party has neglected"…

He said: "We will be focusing on the issues that really matter to working-class people on doorsteps - immigration, crime, defence, foreign aid, ensuring that British people are put to the top of the queue in the job market."…

Analysis - Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

This was a commanding, thumping win for Paul Nuttall. The scale of his victory matters. His pitch was that he was the only person able to bring the party together and heal its divisions and this gives him a mandate to do so.

His approach will be different from that of Nigel Farage, whose focus was on appealing to Tory voters. Mr Nuttall wants UKIP to become the authentic voice of the working class by talking about issues that Labour finds problematic…

But first he will have to deal with the huge tensions and personal animosities in the party. He will take comfort from Mr Farage's insistence he won't be a back-seat driver…

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