UKIP’s success in both the local and European elections demonstrates an important moment in British politics, as the possibility of a European referendum has become the central issue of the next general election. Overtaking the previously dominant issue of the parties’ policies regarding the national deficit. The party which prides itself on its obvious stance regarding Europe is of course UKIP whose increasing popularity is largely attributed to their leader’s appeal to the masses. Yet, what UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage MEP’s rise in popularity has demonstrated is that the British political system is fundamentally flawed and Farage exploits the system by presenting himself as a man of the people.
UKIP rose to national prominence not through its policies, but rather through the unfortunate and politically incorrect comments of its members and representatives. The various blunders of Godfrey Bloom MEP did much to bring UKIP onto the national stage. Firstly, by referring to Britain’s foreign aid being sent to “Bongo-Bongo land” in July 2013. Following this, he referred to females at a UKIP conference as “sluts” before hitting journalist Michael Crick over the head with a UKIP brochure. More recently in January, David Silvester, a UKIP councillor, published a letter blaming the floods of 2013 on the British introduction of gay marriage.
Despite all this, UKIP has continued climbing in the opinion polls, due to their leader Nigel Farage. He is a master orator who has no trouble in turning the previously mentioned incidents into a chance to broadcast the party’s Eurosceptic right wing policies. This, coupled with the British media continually providing him with a platform for this to occur, has led to him making no less than 14 appearances on Question Time since 2009. Despite leading a party with no MPs and with a limited presence in local politics, he is the most frequent panellist of the last half a decade. Often these appearances are as a consequence of the previously mentioned blunders and yet when put in front of an audience Nigel Farage is capable of captivating them. As someone who has heard him speak in person, it is indisputable that his charisma goes a long way to support his party. UKIP needs this support due to a lack of clear policies and that become evident when they are coaxed from the safety of discussion on topics such as Europe and immigration.
Farage’s charismatic persona provides an exciting alternative for voters to the uninspiring images of the leaders of the other three parties. He is frequently depicted outside pubs with a pint and cigarette in hand, an image that advances his man of the people persona. The issue with this façade is just that, a façade. A strategy to appeal to a population who feel disconnected and disaffected by the continuing existence of a political class in Britain. However, Farage remains as much a part of the political class as Cameron, Miliband and Clegg. Both Cameron and Clegg’s ancestry is positively aristocratic and both attended fee paying schools unlike 93 per cent of the British population. Although Farage is not a descendant of the aristocracy, he also went to a fee paying school like one third of the House of Commons and worked as a city Broker before moving into politics.
The term political class should have already been resigned to the history books, and it is lamentable that today in the twenty-first century the term is still applied to those in Westminster. Farage’s man of the people façade presents him as different from the other leaders and one which the ordinary person can relate to. However, this could not be further from the flaw that Westminster fails to accurately represent the British population. This means that politicians like Farage who appear to present an ordinary working man image can gain access to the disaffected voters of the British public, despite deceiving them in the process.