Friday 26th July 2013
By Michael Kyriacou
The UK Independence Party has experienced a boom in its electoral presence following the recent 2013 local elections. The party won over 140 seats and is projected to hold approximately 23 per cent of the national vote. Nick Robinson declared it as “the day UKIP emerged as a real political force in the land” while UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage claimed to have “thrown the whole of British politics up in the air.”
Many commentators are asking whether UKIP can now go on to win seats at Westminster or whether UKIP’s success at the local elections, together with its strong showing in opinion polls, is more about the public showing their discontent for the established political tricolon.
Before we can look at their political credibility, we must first look at who UKIP are. A quick browse of their website reveals them to be a party thriving on the rhetoric of crisis. They are offering simple solutions to complex problems. That approach is novel and in stark contrast to that of the established parties who often seek to obfuscate issues by hiding behind their complexity. The approach of simple digestible answers compliments UKIP’s doctrine of “common sense politics” and is likely to strike a chord with middle England. That has never been more evident than in an age of politicians who speak for the soundbite and with the contrived anecdote.
It is those rhetorical tricks that make the homogenised triad of ‘LibLabCon’ unappealing and make the frank and simple syllogisms of UKIP both refreshing and alluring. With Farage at the helm, the party is an oratory powerhouse as shown by his many inflammatory speeches at the EU parliament, and it is his image as an outspoken, patriotic Englishman that lays the fabric for its ethos. What will be interesting to see is if UKIP’s proposed “simple solutions” will be able to hold up to the scrutiny given to the policies of the three main parties. If, as Farage hopes, he can transition UKIP from their perceived position as the Conservative party of the 1980s to a credible force, he needs to add more substance to his already strong rhetoric.
Now we have seen where the allure of UKIP lies – primarily, within their strong identity and rejection of the conventional political process – we can answer if they are credible or the beneficiaries of a reaction. In the opinion of this writer, they are the symptom of the Conservative’s line on Europe and not a credible political force in their own right. In order to understand the rise of UKIP, we must look at David Cameron’s pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Europe. That genius stroke from David Cameron functioned to unify his own party and disorientate his opposition. However, its unintended consequence has been the resurgence of UKIP. The resurgence is predicated upon a European referendum bringing EU membership to the fore in our political culture.
By that understanding, we can see that UKIP has gained unintentional recognition as a legitimate party by David Cameron’s promise of a referendum. Reading UKIP in this manner shows they can no longer be considered the protest vote they were in 2009; their success now should be viewed as a legitimate response to the realisation that the Prime Minister may not go through with his promise of holding a referendum. That reading does not lend them full accreditation as a substantive alternative, though.
By understanding their allure and policy, we can see that UKIP and their success are the voter’s response to the Conservatives’ promise of a referendum and for the potential of David Cameron to break this promise.