Published on May 14th, 2014 |
by Jack Howlett
The Rise of UKIP: A serious player in the 2015 General Election, or just “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”?
UKIP have been all over the news in recent weeks, whether it being over one of their members sayng something hugely inappropriate, their huge billboard campaign, or Farage’s hypocrisy of him employing his German wife, wherever you look they are there. I therefore take a step back and address whether the party really has any credentials to make an effect on the 2015 General Election. In recent years we have seen the UK Independence Party grow and grow, to the point in which it sits third in the national polls. But to what extent has UKIP actually grown? Are they a party that has serious contentions in the 2015 general election? Or has this perceived rise of UKIP a lot more exaggerated then first envisaged?
2013 was probably the biggest turning point of the party in terms of domestic successes. The year before it was hovering around the 8 percent mark in most opinion polls but now it looks like the party’d support is close to double this level with some polls indication that it has topped 20 percent. The local elections in 2013, switched any perceptions of the party just being a ‘protest vote’, to a party that could have serious credentials within the future. The party gained 139 seats and nearly a quarter of the vote.
UKIP’s successes have not just come from their electoral seats however. The party have been able to put the issue of Europe and immigration at the forefront of the political agenda for the main parties. Euroscepticism is increasingly becoming a buzz word within British Politics. A lot of this, in recent years, is due to the pressures put on the main political parties within Britain. This is obvious if we look at David Cameron already promising an in/out referendum by the end of 2017, in an effort to shore-up his position with the right of his party. It’s not just the Conservatives however, who are facing increased pressures from UKIP. Similarly, Labour are increasingly under pressure from their voters to address the issues surrounding Europe and immigration.We can see therefore that even though UKIP have had increasing success within elections, this is not the only success the party has gained. They have been arguably even more successful at putting their own political agenda onto the mainstream, with the major parties having calls to address these issues.
I think it’s safe to say from all this that the rise of UKIP is by no means a fallacy. They have grown to the point in which they could have some real successes in the European Parliament election in 2014, and even the possibilities of some seat in Parliament at the 2015 General Election. There are however a few factors that could inhibit this possible success for UKIP, one of them being the first past the post electoral system. The current electoral system poses a large barrier in the way of UKIP gaining many seats in the next General Election, and them ultimately being that successful. The First Past the Post System its hugely disproportionate which makes it increasingly hard for smaller parties to get any seats within Parliament. If you don’t get the most votes within your constituency you have absolutely no effect. This could cause serious problems for a party the size of UKIP, and therefore may inhibit their successes.
Carrying on from this point, though UKIP have been successful within the European elections, we are yet to see anywhere near this level of success in domestic General Elections. As with every General Election, it tends to kill protest votes. We tend to see a return to people voting for the major parties instead of the smaller ones, perhaps as they do not feel it would have much of an affect otherwise. UKIP’s policies, as well, though perhaps attractive to some, do also have the potential to alienate a lot of its voters. This could deter a lot of their voters from voting for them in the next General Election, which could be a real blow for their possible successes. Their more right wing policies on immigration, crime etc may seem a lot less appealing to the more moderate voters who perhaps are dissatisfied with their original parties stance on Europe, and therefore we may just see these voters returning to vote for their original parties within the actual General Election.
It is therefore hard to say whether UKIP will actually gain many seats, if any at all, in the 2015 General Election due to a huge number of obstacles in their way. However, whether you love them or hate them, you cannot deny that they are currently having a huge impact on British politics. The pressure they are putting on other parties over Europe is clear to see and they are looking to gain a huge amount of votes in the upcoming European Elections. Therefore, perhaps they may not have much success in the 2015 General Election relative to seats in the Commons, however this is undoubtedly a party on the rise and one that is having a huge effect on British Politics.
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