chapter  3
36 Pages

Origins: a long time coming

The rise of a new political party is exciting. Their initial breakthrough, new ideas and challenge to the status quo capture the attention of voters, other parties and journalists looking for the next story. In newspaper columns and tweets, commentators compete to explain the new challenger’s appeal, while party strategists head to retreats to debate how to neutralise the electoral threat. But the signifi cance of new parties like UKIP, which is one of the youngest parties in British politics, also extends beyond the day-to-day buzz of journalistic reaction, political strategising and Twitter arguments. Rather than being driven by short-term factors, a new party’s emergence often highlights deeper, long-term changes within society, and the opening up of new confl icts and divisions within the electorate. The decision of millions of voters to shift to a new and untested alternative, in a political system that makes it diffi cult for outsiders to break through, also suggests a failure on the part of the established parties to recognise or respond to these new divisions. In short, to fully explain the arrival and success of a party like UKIP, we need to trace its roots all the way back.