Could 2012 be the year that the United Kingdom Independence Party breaks into the British political system as more than a Euroskeptic platform? The scenario looks more likely after last week’s local elections. Nigel Farage’s party averaged 13 percent of the vote.
In the last month, according to a YouGov poll, UKIP was the third most popular party in the United Kingdom. They have doubled their support since last year and surpassed the Liberal Democrats, currently in government with the Conservatives, by 1 percentage point.
The most likely reason for the party’s gain is that David Cameron’s political flavor is becoming tasteless to the right wing. The Conservatives thought that they could always rely on its vote as as there was no other place to go. UKIP’s record performance last week showed otherwise and has already cost the Conservatives some seats.
If UKIP’s success is a result of of voter dissatisfaction with the coalition government, it could pose a big threat to the Conservatives in 2015 when there will be parliamentary elections. Even if UKIP takes just 5 percent of the right-wing vote, the Conservatives may find it extremely hard to win a majority.
Conservatives are aware of the threat. Backbencher Gary Streeter, a parliamentarian for South West Devon, was quoted as saying voters no longer think the party’s “leadership is conservative enough.”
UKIP is not a single issue party anymore. It woos Conservative voters with their opposition to the European Union as well a tough law and order manifesto where “life means life” for prison sentences but their favored reintroduction of grammar schools is popular across the political spectrum.
The United KingdomIP vote is still spread very thinly around the county, so it will be hard for them to do well in a general election when votes are cast per district in a first-past-the-post system.
What would make the rise of UKIP something far more worrisome for the Conservatives is if any of the lawmakers who voted in favor of a referendum about European Union membership and in the process defied their party leadership, decide in the future to defect to Nigel Farage’s party.
Whatever or not defections happen, the prime minister can no longer take for granted his right-wing support base. The general election of 2015 may prove to be an interesting one on the right.