Fruitcakes, loonies, closet racists. Call them you want but the United Kingdom Independence Party was formed with one primary goal: to secure Britain’s escape from the European Union and they have almost succeeded. In doing so, they did banish themselves into the political wilderness once again but, given the choice, Nigel and his merry men would do it all again. Welcome to the Fruitcake Invasion.
So, where did it all begin? UKIP was conceived inside the great mind of Alan Sked, a Liberal politician and distinguished professor from the London School of Economics. In 1993 the Anti- Federalist League transformed into UKIP following 2 impressive by-election results. In 1997, Sked left the party and came to hate what he had created. He claimed ‘they are racist and have been infected by the far right’ and in a quote that demonstrates his sheer contempt for the party he said that UKIP was ‘less liberal than the BNP.’ UKIP, by all accounts, became Sked’s Frankenstein.
In recent years, Sked has continued to smear UKIP with claims of inherent racism within the party and he is a frequent critic of Nigel Farage. Despite the animosity that evidently exists between the party and Sked, both acknowledge the role the other has played in the Eurosceptic movement. Robert Smith, a founding father of UKIP believes that the Eurosceptic movement needed the intellectual finesse that Sked brought and admits that without him the movement would not be in the place it is today. Sked himself has no regrets about the part he played in the party’s inception. He told Vice Magazine in 2016 that if he hadn’t founded the party then there would be no Referendum. I believe he may be right.
In 2006, Farage became the leader and he broadened the parties appeal with a host of socially conservative policies. This was in stark contrast to the agenda followed by David Cameron, who according to Farage, was “a socialist” whose priorities were “gay marriage, foreign aid, and wind farms.” Now UKIP offered a real alternative to the mainstream parties and began to lose the label of a ‘one-issue party’. Trust in the mainstream parties was demolished by the UK parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009 and UKIP capitalised on this by portraying the establishment as liars and crooks. This led to an immediate surge in the polls culminating in the 2009 European Parliament election where they secured 2.5 million votes (16.5%), earning 13 MEPs, and becoming the second largest party in the European Parliament after the Conservatives. Farage and his Kippers now had a new target: to topple the Conservative Party in the next European Election.
Now we will address the beer-drinking, pipe-smoking leader of the Purple Revolution. Behind the caricature that he carries impeccably well, there is a highly intelligent man with true charisma. Arguably the most polarising figure in British Politics since Enoch Powell, he is a gifted orator and is a formidable debater. Farage has been demonised by vast sways of the liberal media for his conservative views. Interestingly the press has failed to properly marginalise him to the point of irrelevance. Nigel has survived a helicopter crash, a car crash and a short battle with cancer; his battles with the media are trivial child’s play which he seems to revel in and have seemingly aided his quest to be the anti-hero he is today.
2014 was the year of horse for the Chinese but it was also the year of UKIP. They made history as the first party in 108 years to top a national election ahead of both Labour and the Tories. Granted turnout was a measly 35.6% but the magnitude of this result cannot be understated. UKIP were now firmly placed in the political mainstream and YouGov rewarded them with an upgrade to their status to ‘major party’. In two isolated by-elections, UKIP managed to survive the full force of a vengeful Conservative Party who were frankly humiliated by the defections of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless. This demonstrated that UKIP had the firepower to disrupt the Westminster equilibrium and it was a hugely disturbing sight for Mr Cameron who sat raging with Samantha in Downing Street. This was a Watershed moment for UKIP, never before had anyone inside government or opposition seen them as anything more than a ‘protest party’, now they had evolved into a political powerhouse ready to overthrow the established order.
The 2015 General Election was significant for UKIP. UKIP’s greatest achievement will always be the part they played in the EU referendum. What may surprise many of you is that they were not involved in the official campaign (Vote Leave). Instead they focused their resources into an impressive grassroots campaign that ran parallel to the official campaign. There are a plethora of reasons for why Brexit happened and they will certainly be thoroughly explored in future editions of this Magazine. But, for now, I will simply draw 2 conclusions about the role UKIP played in the referendum:
Firstly, Brexit would not have happened without UKIP. As UKIP began to devour sections of the Conservative vote, David Cameron was faced with a huge dilemma. He could choose to gamble and appease the recalcitrant backbenchers in his own party and remove the lure of UKIP by promising an ‘in/out’ referendum or he could play it safe and continue to dismiss calls for a referendum and hope that the FPTP system would protect him from the advancing purple army. On the 23rd January 2013, Cameron caved in and Ed Miliband claimed he was ‘running scared’ from UKIP. This was the opportunity Nigel and co. had been waiting for 2 decades. The decision destroyed Cameron’s career and the way in which it ended for him is highly ironic. In his first speech at his first conference as party leader he said “Stop banging on about Europe” but he will remembered for little else.
Without support from outside UKIP, Brexit would still be a distant fantasy and the referendum result would have been totally different. As previously stated, UKIP were not a part of the Official campaign and this pleased many in the Eurosceptic movement who viewed Nigel Farage as a divisive figure incapable of appealing to the moderates. A stigma was already around UKIP and many wrongly believed that it was a party burdened with racism. Nigel accepted the limited scope of UKIP and said that the party would only be able to persuade half of the necessary total to make Brexit a reality. Then, on the weekend that Cameron returned from Brussels, a saviour for the Leave campaign emerged. His name was Boris Johnson. Flanked by Michael Gove and almost half of Tory MPs, Johnson was able to make the war a more evenly matched encounter. The Eurosceptic movement was now fighting on 2 fronts.
Early in the evening of June 23rd 2016, Nigel Farage accepted that he believed the Remain side had clinched victory but said “win or lose this referendum, we are winning the war.” What Nigel didn’t know is that his side had won the referendum and had won the war. It was a magnificent triumph for all Brexiteers. The invasion was almost complete.
UKIP has now been blasted into obscurity. They have succeeded in their mission to persuade the electorate that the European Union is an outdated, undemocratic retirement home and their policies have now been adopted by both Labour and the Tories. And it’s not just foreign policy. Theresa May planned to remove the ban on the creation of new grammar schools (an original UKIP policy) but after the disastrous result she was forced to drop it. If UKIP was a pressure group it would be one of the most successful of modern times and it is now described as an ‘unpaid think tank’ for the Tories. Yes, UKIP has been influencing government policy but after being wiped out in the recent council elections the writing is on the wall. UKIP is dead and not even Nigel could revive them. Aaron Banks, the party’s largest donor had his own membership suspended. The eccentric Banks replied that he and UKIP were ‘never ever getting back together…like ever’ and he also hinted that he would set up a new political force. Imagine it, UKIP 2.0 lead by the Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest of the Moggites. Snowflakes everywhere are melting.
Anyway, time to wrap this up.
UKIP was only formed 25 years ago but their meteoric rise has been phenomenal. Whether you love them or hate them, you should respect the hard work that has gone into making a Eurosceptic dream a reality. The fruitcakes invaded the system, corrupted it and managed to pull off the greatest upset in modern political history (with the exception of Mr. Trump who may have deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize by the time you are reading this). The only fitting conclusion to this story would be a Knighthood for Nigel Farage. Sir Nigel Farage, there you said it. It wasn’t that bad was it? Only when that moment comes will the invasion be complete.