The UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by jocular nationalist Nigel Farage, is on the cusp of winning its first seat in parliament.
UKIP has gained support predominantly among voters who feel disaffected by mainstream party politics, particularly on the issues of closer integration with Europe and immigration. (The party wants Britain to get out of the European Union.) In a YouGov poll earlier this year 83% of UKIP supporters surveyed said immigration is one of the top three most important issues facing the country, versus 53% of all respondents.
MP Douglas Carswell, who defected from the Conservative Party to stand for UKIP in the Clacton by-election, has likened what his new party is doing to the impact of taxi service Uber on traditional cabs:
It takes on vested interests and make sure the customer gets a better deal. We need that in politics. We need an Uber party that takes on vested interests and gives the punter a better deal. Like Uber, Ukip is disruptive. Like Uber, the vested interests are trying to criticise Ukip for being things that it isn’t.
A UKIP victory would not threaten Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government. However, the fact that he has now seen a string of defectors leave his party for UKIP is proving to be a huge embarrassment. The defections of Carswell and his former Conservative colleague Mark Reckless have given them the chance to make make inroads into parliament ahead of the General Election next year.
The party’s fortunes have risen in tandem with other eurosceptic parties across Europe. Recent elections to the European parliament returned a record number of eurosceptic MEPs with Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy Party (EFD) bloc seeing its numbers swell from
31 to 48.
Lord Ashcroft’s most recent poll shows UKIP ahead by 56% to the Conservatives’ 24% in Clacton.
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