Euroskeptics Lead English “Revolt” Against Major Parties

Britian’s Conservatives and Labour should both be concerned about UKIP’s rise.

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage raises his hand during a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 15, 2009
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage raises his hand during a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 15, 2009 (European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)

The rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party in Thursday’s local elections was a “very English anti-establishment revolt,” wrote the BBC’s Nick Robinson on Friday. People didn’t vote for Nigel Farage’s party so as much as “none of the above” to express their discontent with the other three major parties.

UKIP, a right-wing party that advocates a British exit from the European Union, lower taxes and tougher immigration laws, didn’t manage to take control of any of the 35 English county legislatures that were up for reelection but got 23 percent support across the country. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives won just a quarter of the votes, down from 33 percent four years ago.

In the short term, according to Robinson, the results will force Cameron “to sound and act like the sort of Conservative his activists want him to be — tougher on immigration, Europe and crime.” Longer term, it leaves the next parliamentary election “intriguingly open.” If UKIP splits the right-wing vote again in 2015, Labour’s Ed Miliband might emerge as prime minister with barely more than a third of the votes. Yet Labour’s inability to attract many Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters might also suggest that the coalition is far from doomed. Miliband’s party won 29 percent of the votes on Thursday, enough to take control of just three county councils.

Indeed, according to The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, Labour should fear UKIP, too. Its lurch to the left has failed to enthuse the party’s traditional, working-class base.

Not only does it overlook how much the ordinary Joe is getting stiffed by taxes and rising prices (don’t live in Britain if you want to smoke or drive a car) but it skirts the issues that really boil the blood: violent crime, the despoiling of the countryside, old people left to die in careless NHS hospitals and the price tag of mass immigration. Miliband is focusing his attention on the wrong side of the political debate, sewing up a left-wing vote that is shrinking fast.

David Cameron, by contrast, said Friday that he understood why conservative voters didn’t support his party again. “They want us to do even more to work for hardworking people, to sort out the issues they care about, more to help with the cost of living, more to turn the economy around, more to get immigration down, to sort out the welfare system.”

After almost three years in power, though, The Telegraph argued on Thursday it was time for the premier to not “just say it” but “do it.”

The Conservative leader chastised the “enemies of enterprise” but has done little to deregulate Britain’s economy. His government is struggling to reduce a £90 billion deficit, even if the left rallies against spending cuts that hardly are. He announced a referendum on the island nation’s European Union membership but insists that it should remain a part of the bloc. The Telegraph knows that “the public, and his party, will be less than forgiving if he makes a habit of raising their expectations, only to dash them again.”

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