chapter  7
22 Pages

The paradoxes and potential of UKIP’s revolt

When UKIP’s activists gathered to celebrate their twentieth birthday in September 2013, they had much to feel good about. As some of the founding members took to the stage, people who had fi rst met in Alan Sked’s LSE offi ce twenty years earlier, they looked out at a party that must have seemed barely recognisable: a large audience of motivated activists; a growing membership that now stood at over 30,000; rows of interested journalists; and their leader, Nigel Farage, who had just been voted the second most infl uential rightwinger in Britain, behind Prime Minister David Cameron. 1 The anti-EU pressure group had grown into a fully fl edged political party, that now appeared at ease talking about a full range of issues on the British political agenda. As the celebrations got underway, a fl urry of UKIP press releases attacked the main parties’ policies on the environment, responded to terror attacks in Kenya, opposed the privatisation of Royal Mail and demanded migrants have evidence of health insurance. Somehow, UKIP’s long-serving true believers had overcome the odds, surviving one crisis after another, to establish their party as a household name, with enough popular support to prompt talk of a realignment of British party politics.