UKIP

The politics of the UK have gradually moved away from a two-party system (Labour and Conservatives). With the popularity of the Liberal Democrats waning, smaller parties such as UKIP have had an opportunity to make a significant impact on UK politics. 

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Table of contents

    Meaning of UKIP

    The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is a British, right-wing, Eurosceptic (critical of the European Union) political party. UKIP gained popularity during the mid-2010s when they continuously campaigned to leave the European Union (Brexit). This campaign resulted in the party gaining two Members of Parliament in the 2015 general election. Pre-Brexit, UKIP had the largest number of representatives of the UK in the European Parliament (24 MEPs). According to YouGov1, UKIP’s main voting demographic is older, working-class, white men that live in England.

    Euroscepticism: being critical of the European Union and European integration.

    UKIP is what is known as a populist party. This means that their ideas and policies target and appeal to everyday citizens who feel their needs and concerns are being ignored by elites in government. UKIP also embraces civic nationalism. This is a section of nationalism that believes in political legitimacy through popular sovereignty, whilst rejecting ethnic nationalism by encouraging the participation of Britons of all ethnicities and religions.

    UKIP history

    Unlike other political parties, the establishment of UKIP is very recent. UKIP was established in 1991 as the Anti-Federalist League by Alan Sked, who is a Scottish Eurosceptic academic. He was the leader of the party from 1993 to 1997. UKIP was introduced as a single-policy party and formed in response to the opposition of the Maastricht Treaty, the foundation treaty of the European Union. In 1993, it was renamed UKIP (they avoided calling it ‘British’) to avoid confusion with the British National Party (BNP), a far-right British political party.

    In 2004, support for UKIP began to grow, largely due to increasing nationalist views in the UK. This resulted in the party winning 12 seats in the 2004 European Parliamentary elections. Then, in 2006, Nigel Farage was elected as leader of the party. He was seen as a ‘man of the people’. He presented himself as an unscripted individual that was against the larger established political parties. Farage influenced UKIP to stray from being a single-issue party and to support socially conservative ideas.

    Later, in 2014, they were awarded ‘major party status’ by Ofcom. With their popularity still growing, UKIP won their first seat in the House of Commons in the 2014 by-election. And while UKIP only won a single seat in the 2015 general election, they were the third most popular party. The party’s popularity decreased after the 2016 referendum, where Britain voted to leave the European Union.

    UKIP Image representing the UK leaving the EU StudySmarterFig. 1 Image representing the UK leaving the EU

    UKIP Policies

    Let’s take a look at some of the party’s most important policies.

    UKIP: Immigration policy and nationalism

    UKIP tends to promote British nationalism and is against the increased power of the devolved nations (Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), whereby there is a delegation of powers from a central government to regional/local governments.

    They are often opposed to multiculturalism and what they call the ‘Islamification’ of Britain. UKIP tends to follow the ideology of previous Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her brand of classical liberalism. The party also holds traditionalist views on a range of social policies related to education, criminal justice, and LGBT rights. This has led to accusations of them being racist and xenophobic.

    Although other political parties such as the British National Party are also Eurosceptic, UKIP is known to be hard Eurosceptics and has adopted that as part of its identity as a party.

    UKIP: Economic policy

    In terms of economics, they believe in a capitalist market economy and are not totally against economic globalisation alongside a global free market.

    UKIP: Social policy

    When discussing social policy, we can see they are very conservative. They opposed the introduction of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK, they wanted to repeal the Human Rights Act, and have campaigned to reintroduce the death penalty.

    We can see their nationalist views in their social policies as well. In 2015, for example, Nigel Farage said the NHS is ‘there for British people and families, who in many cases have paid into the system for years’.

    UKIP is the only large party in the UK that doesn’t encourage the development of renewable energies, doesn’t speak in favour of lowering carbon emissions, and denied the existence of climate change.

    Structure of UKIP

    The table below shows all the previous UKIP leaders since its establishment.

    UKIP UKIP Leaders since its establishment StudySmarterFig. 2 - UKIP leaders since its establishment.

    Structure of UKIP: Current representatives of the party

    • Local Government (Councillors)

    Out of 19,698 seats, the party has 9 seats.

    • Welsh Assembly (AMs)

    The party has 0 seats out of the 60 seats in the Welsh Assembly.

    • Scottish Parliament (MSPs)

    Out of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, the party has 0 seats.

    • London Assembly (AMs)

    In total, the London Assembly has 25 seats and the party has 0 seats.

    • House of Lords (Peers)

    The party has 0 seats out of the 783 seats in the House of Lords.

    • House of Commons (MPs)

    With a minority of seats in the House of Commons, the party has zero 0 seats out of the 650 seats.

    UKIP - Key takeaways

    • The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is a British political party that embraces right-wing populism and Euroscepticism.
    • UKIP peaked in popularity in the mid-2010s where they continuously campaigned to leave the European Union (Brexit).
    • UKIP was established in 1991 as the Anti-Federalist League by Alan Sked, who is a Scottish Eurosceptic academic.
    • UKIP tends to promote British nationalism and is against the increased power of the devolved nations (Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland).
    • They are known to discourage multiculturalism and what they call the ‘Islamification’ of Britain.
    • They tend to follow the ideology of previous Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and classical liberalism.
    • They hold traditionalist views on social policies related to education, criminal justice and LGBT rights.

    References

    1. Peter Kellner, How UKIP voters compare, 2013

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

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