Nigel Farage prevailed over the negative media barrage.
Nigel Farage’s insurgent UK Independence Party (UKIP or Ukip) has won the European parliamentary elections in what is being called by Farage and many others a “political earthquake.”
The UK election was held on Thursday, but votes weren’t counted until last night to give other European countries time to complete their election process. In the same balloting, Ukip also did well in local elections across Britain.
To some degree, European Union foe Ukip could be compared to the Tea Party, but Ukip is not even a third-party… it’s a fourth party. As such, Farage claimed that his populist party’s victory — in which Ukip picked up 24 seats in the EU parliament — was “the most extraordinary result in British politics in 100 years.”
As he alluded to, the Ukip surge is a game-changer in that more than 100 years have elapsed since a political party other than the Conservatives or Labor have won British national election.
Ukip might have won at least one more seat, but officials allowed a “spoiler” party with a similar sounding name to get on the ballot, which apparently confused some voters.
Marie Le Pen’s controversial National Front in France also won big, and other so-called euroskeptic parties in Europe increased their representation in the EU parliament.
Ukip’s victory was unprecedented because, under the UK’s somewhat convoluted election procedures, it currently has zero seats in the British parliament itself. That is likely to change, however, after the 2015 general election, in which capitalizing on the current politial momentum, Farage himself plans to run in one of a handful of Ukip-targeted constituencies. Quipped Farage, “The UKIP fox is in the Westminster henhouse,” Westminister being shorthand for the British parliament House of Commons in central London.
A sitting member of the European parliament where he is a outspoken contrarian, Farage could be perhaps the world’s greatest debater. He has to be, because virtually every interview on TV or radio (and there is plenty of Nigel Farage footage on YouTube to demonstrate that) is more of a hostile interrogation by the London-based British media, from both the left and the right, rather than just political chatter.
In early April, Farage also debated Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a committed EU supporter, on national TV about the EU, and even Farage’s detractors admitted that he soundly defeated Clegg in the head-to-head matchup. Imagine the outcome, for example, if US Sen. Ted Cruz debated VP Joe Biden on Obamacare.
In the EU election, Ukip defeated the three established UK political parties which are seen as fundamentally out of touch (sound familiar?) with ordinary voters. Ukip wants to reassert the sovereignty of Britain by leaving the European Union and all its assorted heavy-handed regulations and also to put controls on massive immigration, including illegal immigration, for which they have been accused of racism (again, sound familiar?). As the Daily Mail summarized,
“If Thursday’s local election results were a kick in the pants for Westminster’s smug political class, last night’s European triumphs for Ukip were nothing less than a humiliation. Instead of addressing voters’ genuine concerns on mass immigration and the corrupt, power-hungry EU machine, the big three parties believed they could defeat Nigel Farage with smears and lazy accusations of ‘racism’ … Traditional Labor and Tory supporters, tired of being lectured by professional politicians who have never had a job in the real world, defected to Ukip in their droves, and the Liberal Democrats were massacred.”
The UK domestically is now governed by a parliamentary coalition of Conservatives (a.k.a. Tories) and Liberal Democrats under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. On the political spectrum, the Conservative party is considered center-right. Labor, the main opposition party which finished in second place in the European parliamentary elections narrowly ahead of the Tories, is on the left, while the fading Liberal Democrats are generally center-left.
Both Labor and the Liberal Democrats oppose a referendum that would allow British voters to decide whether to continue the country’s EU membership. Cameron has promised an in-or-out referendum, but only in 2017 after he is reelected (if he is, which is a big if). Ukip, of course, has been demanding a referendum all along and argues that Cameron will never follow through.
In the runup to the election, the media consensus was that Farage and Ukip would drain votes mostly from disillusioned conservatives because the Cameron administration is perceived as wishy-washy on the EU question, immigration policy, and other hot-button issues. However, as Farage insisted all along, Ukip also received support from traditional Labor voters, such as those on this side of the pond who might be equivalent to Reagan Democrats, as well as those who seldom, if ever, see the point of voting at all.
Some Labor leaders have admitted making a big mistake in opening the door to massive immigration when they ran the government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. EU regulations, which the UK currently must abide, have resulted in even more immigration into Britain, primarily from Eastern Europe. Similar to the US, the UK is perceived by open-ended immigration foes as a welfare magnet.
In the 2015 general election, it appears unlikely that either the Tories or Labor (roughly equivalent to our Republicans and Democrats) will obtain a majority in parliament (although gerrymandering gives Labor an inherent advantage), which could make Farage and Ukip the kingmakers in forging a governing coalition.
Of those who attempted to be dismissive of the Ukip victory of the basis of it being a transitory protest vote, Nigel Farage compared the “legacy parties” in the UK to “goldfish that have just been tipped out of the bowl onto the floor, desperately gasping for air and clinging on to the comfort blanket that this is a protest vote.”
Also pushing back on the Ukip protest vote analysis, one political observer claimed that “The elections of the last few days mark the beginning of a revolution which will completely transform the face of politics across Europe and which will inevitably lead to the destruction of the European Union… What these election results symbolise is the depth of disgust felt across Britain and through continental Europe at the remoteness, incompetence, complacency and dispiriting saminess of the political class (and its amen corner in the mainstream media, in the corporations, in the bureaucracy, and the judiciary).”
[image credit: Euro Realist Newsletter]