Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party (UKIP or Ukip) won its second seat in Britain’s parliament after the votes were counted late Thursday night our time in the constituency of victor Mark Reckless.
Ukip is an upstart populist party that has confounded conventional wisdom in Britain’s political and journalist world that it was just a spoiler or a fringe party. Farage and others now say with some evidence, “vote Ukip, get Ukip.”
Some parallels exist with the U.S. Tea Party, except Ukip is a stand-alone party that rejects the conventional right-left labeling, while the Tea Party is generally a component of the Republican faction.
Heretofore, the two major parties in the U.K. are or where the Conservatives, a.k.a. Tories, and Labor (roughly equivalent to the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S.).
The U.K. domestically is now governed in the House of Commons by a coalition of Conservatives and the rapidly fading Liberal Democrats under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. The conservatives failed to gain enough seats in the 2010 election to form a majority on their own. While there are many so-called Euroskeptics among the Tories, both Labor and the Liberal Democrats are committed to staying in the European Union and oppose an in-or-out national referendum.
Former Conservative Party MP Reckess not recklessly, as it turned out, switched his party affiliation in September to Farage’s “people’s army” and resigned from Parliament. This prompted a special election on Thursday in which Reckless ran and won under the Ukip banner. Last month, another ex-Tory, Douglas Carswell, successfully did the same thing in his constituency. “The [Reckless] victory is further evidence that Ukip’s hold on British politics is strengthening after the party won the Clacton by-election last month,” the London Telegraph observed.
Added the Daily Mail, “The result is embarrassing for David Cameron who just six weeks ago tore into Mr Reckless and vowed to kick his ‘fat a***’ out of the Commons. Today the Prime Minister insisted he is ‘absolutely determined’ to win the seat back at the general election.”
In the U.S., most party switchers wait until the next scheduled election cycle to give the voters an opportunity to render a judgment on the change.
Another difference: Although admittedly U.K. constituencies are much smaller than, say, U.S. House of Representatives districts, ballots in parliamentary elections are counted in a central location such as a gym, and in the end all the candidates, major and minor, go up on stage while a presiding local officer publicly reads off the results.
Last May, Ukip won the most seats for Britain’s representation in the European Parliament, the first time in about 100 years that a political party other than the Conservatives or Labor have won a British national election.
That outcome, plus the Carswell and Reckless victories, apparently signifies the British electorate’s dissatisfaction with politics as usual and assorted London-centered, out-of-touch office holders.
Ukip wants to reassert the sovereignty of Britain by exiting the European Union via referendum and leaving behind all its assorted heavy-handed regulations, and also, among other things, to put controls on vast immigration into the country.
Originally thought to be a drain on conservatives only, Ukip is taking votes from both major parties and in fact almost won a third seat in a Labor stronghold in a separate special election that occurred on the same day as the Carswell win. New voters are also coming to the polls to vote for Ukip.
Rumors have surfaced that other Tory and Labor MPs may defect to Ukip in the coming weeks.
The charismatic Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, who is a long-time member of the European Parliament, may be one of the foremost debaters in the world. Until recently perhaps, virtually every Farage interview in the London-based media across the political spectrum was more of a hostile cross-examination than just political conversation, including fending off charges of racism. The media atmosphere would be like if the same U.S. elected official was raked over the coals on CNN, MSNBC, and the Fox News Channel. Farage himself reportedly will run for the British parliament in the upcoming May 2015 election.
Abandoning conventional voting alliances, many conservative-leaning citizens and elected officials have become disillusioned with Cameron’s leadership, or lack thereof, especially with regard to the EU and immigration, and many disaffected Labor voters, who could be considered roughly equivalent to Reagan Democrats in the U.S., have similar strong misgivings about Labor’s policies under current lackluster leader Ed Miliband.
Some Labor leaders have admitted making a big mistake in opening the door to massive third-world immigration when they ran the U.K. government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
European Union regulations, which the U.K. currently must abide by, have resulted in even more immigration into Britain, primarily from Eastern Europe. Similar to the U.S., the U.K. is perceived by open-ended immigration foes as a welfare magnet and imposing downward pressure on pay.
Although many Ukip members apparently support traditional values, the emphasis of the party is of an economic nature. Along these lines, the upset winner in the Maryland election for governor, GOP standard-bearer Larry Hogan, recently told CBS News that his campaign message wasn’t partisan and instead “focused on lower taxes, creating jobs, and getting the business community and the private sector back on track so we can grow the economy.” Maryland is a deep blue state, and conventional wisdom was that Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, the Democrat, would win easily.
Given their lost market share, it appears unlikely that either the Tories or Labor will obtain a majority in parliament after the next general election, which could make Ukip — even with a modest number of seats — the kingmakers in forging a governing coalition in Westminster.
At the time of the Ukip first place finish in the May 2014 European elections, Canadian journalist Ezra Levant offered this commentary about Nigel Farage and company.
If you follow British politics, how successful, if at all, do you think Nigel Farage and Ukip will be in the May 2015 parliamentary election?
[image credit: Euro Realist Newsletter]