How does a party go from receiving a meagre 3.10% of the national vote in 2010, to coming first in this year’s European elections and more recently securing their first elected Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, acquiring more than 59% of the total votes cast?
This is the question that the established Westminster parties are bound to be asking themselves both now and in the months leading up to next year’s general election, which few politicians doubt will be a tightly-fought contest, with no obvious outcome as of yet. Could UKIP really hold the balance of power?
It is clear that UKIP’s success is at least partly due to the fact that a large proportion of the electorate feels disenchanted by the Westminster ‘clique’, who it is said cannot relate to the challenges affecting much of the British public today. The polls suggest that Farage is right to claim that people demand change, and fast. On issues such as immigration, UKIP is providing answers; whether they are the correct answers depends upon the stance that one takes, but evidently many voters do not trust David Cameron’s promise of an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in 2017. The prospect of saving £55 million per day on Britain’s membership of the EU, which could be put to better use elsewhere, appears attractive to voters, and is likely to be a key talking point as the 2015 general election rapidly approaches.
Only UKIP can shake up that cosy little clique called Westminster.Douglas CarswellMember of Parliament
On the other hand, while the self-branded “people’s army” are on the march, it could be argued that they stand no real chance of achieving a major breakthrough in next year’s general election. Nigel Farage himself recognises that he will not be the next Prime Minister. That said, if the recent by-elections are to be trusted, it is possible that UKIP could get a number of MP’s elected to the House of Commons next May. Mr Carswell’s sensational victory in Clacton now gives UKIP a platform to address the key issues, which will no doubt provoke much more discussion in the coming weeks and months, especially with the by-election in Rochester and Strood just around the corner.
Whether the surge in support for UKIP will also be shown in Rochester remains yet to be seen, but what is certain is that the LibLabCon need to provide the public with convincing answers. Nobody can say for sure what will happen at the next election, but there is no doubt that a four-horse race is now well and truly underway.