It is always quite funny when something that starts off as a complete joke snowballs into a substantial entity. So-called ‘radical’ ideas and a strong oratory are the two fundamentals that project a marginal group or individual onto the national stage. The UK Independence party (UKIP) have found themselves in the fortunate position of having both of these, through their strongly anti-European Union stance and their demagogical leader Nigel Farage. It is abundantly clear to most who have a vague conception of the political spectrum in the United Kingdom that Mr Farage’s party is only a gimmick that appeals to those ‘nationalists’ who consider themselves slightly more educated than the beloved English Defence League.
In fairness, UKIP has done rather well for itself despite fact that its policies are all dictated by its commitment to leaving the EU. After having gained 140 seats in the 2013 local council election, some, including the party’s leader, might now declare that UKIP is now a ‘game changer’. What people overlook is that local council elections are about as relevant as Liberian foreign policy when it comes to deciding the nature of the British political system. The only applied power an elected council has is the ability to change the date that your bins are taken out. In essence, these UKIP ‘gains’ mean absolutely nothing.
Some others may then point out that with 16.5% of the national vote (which places UKIP 2nd verall in the UK) in the last EU parliamentary elections, voters are now siding with UKIP’s anti-EU stance. One need only look to the turnout figures– 34.7% – to realize the insignificance of ‘second place’ in the EU parliamentary elections. If one were to do the maths, the representation of 16.5% of voters in the aforementioned elections becomes a mere 0.25% represents 0.25% in regard to the overall population – hardly a formidable popularity rating for an emerging party, and certainly no ‘game changer.’ The term ‘party’ should be used very loosely in respect to UKIP – for Mr Farage’s loose collection of men are vaguely guided by their contempt for the European Union and have little else to campaign on. If UKIP’s political aimlessness does not deter voters, its leader’s misogyny will – the party only has one female Member of European Parliament (MEP) who recently threatened to leave the party, calling Mr Farage an “anti-women Stalinist dictator” whose view is that “women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom.” This does not bode well for Mr Farage’s national prospects.
UKIP is essentially its own worst enemy, preferring outlandish bombast to sensible policy proposals. Mr Farage prefers to shout his message from the rooftops, using his position as an MEP not as a vehicle for change but as an opportunity to publicly lambast the EU. To quote the man himself from one of his many tirades in Brussels: “I speak on behalf of the majority of British people in saying: we don’t know you, we don’t want you, and the sooner you’re put out to grass, the better.” While Mr Farage may believe that he is surfing on a wave of popular support, hard evidence shows that he is absolutely wrong. A recent poll showed that only 43% of UK citizens would vote to leave the EU, while 23% were unsure on how they would vote. This is the main issue with UKIP – it does not forward viable policy changes, it merely takes a contentious issue and moulds it to conform to some convoluted political agenda.
UKIP’s only genuine policy proposal is leaving the EU – beyond that, a quick gander on their website reveals a list of laughably vacuous economic and energy solutions, each half-baked and one-dimensional. Concerning energy, the party recognises that the UK is too heavily reliant on imported gas and seeks to increase energy autonomy. However, UKIP also concedes that the North Sea gas reserves are declining. Its solution? Mysterious ‘new sources of gas’, the details of which UKIP has conveniently neglected to release. , yet they also openly state that North Sea gas reserves are declining. If it was not clear before, Nigel Farage is not a scientist or an oil magnate. It is unclear where this ‘new sources of gas’ is to be found, or if it even exists – if it does, one must wonder why no one else has detected it yet.
UKIP’s only other genuinely informed policy concerns a complete revampging of the UK defence program. In an era of relative peacetime, it is difficult to justify increased defence spending, yet Mr Farage nonetheless advocates prioritizing military development, reason be damned. If elected, UKIP would restore the defence budget to 2010 levels – a period in which Gordon Brown was spending like there was no tomorrow – retain two aircraft carriers, increase the number of major surface combat vessels, and create an air national guard. How Nigel Farage will accomplish this in a time of austerity, where cuts across all government departments are essential to ensuring economic stability, is another mystery, especially considering that such a feat is manifestly impossible. If anything, its deluded idea of a defence program should be UKIP’s flagship policy, as it is representative of all their policies – a load of hot air that panders to some sort of vague conservative national interest.
What does the future hold for UKIP? Nothing. They will fall back into obscurity once the public realizes – any day now – that they do not provide a legitimate alternative to the two-way party system in the UK. It is merely a show-party, built on false claims and little substance behind its plan to leave the EU. Parallels can be drawn between the state of UKIP and the popularity that Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems received during the televised debates before the last general election. Nigel Farage spreads a message that people want to hear, conveniently ascribing the blame for the UK’s problems to the European Union. However, despite appealing oratory, when it comes to actually delivering on his promises, like Nick Clegg before him, Nigel Farage – and UKIP – will crumble.