The United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP for short, seems to be struggling more and more to become one of the big political parties in the UK alongside the Conservative and Labour party.
UKIP’s first election was in 1997 where they won zero seats and only had over 100,000 votes. In 2001 it was a similar story with no seats won but managed to get just under 400,000 votes. In the 2005 general election again no seats were won but the votes continued to rise, this time they got over 600,000 votes. Five years later and you can guess what happened, no seats but this time with over 900,000 votes. In 2015 UKIP finally managed to win a seat and got nearly four million votes which was the third highest amount during the general election.
Then came the EU referendum on 23rd June 2016 and UKIP, who tried to stop the UK from joining the EU in 1993, had finally succeeded in getting us to leave. With their main aim completed their leader Nigel Farage decided to step down in September, only to take back his role as leader a month later and then leave for the final time on the 28th November. Since Farage has left, UKIP started to go downhill and almost forgotten about. In the 2017 general election this was proven with UKIP, under the leadership of Paul Nuttall, losing their only seat and getting less than 600,000 votes.
Currently, UKIP are in the process of electing a new leader after Paul Nuttall stepped down on the 9th June, the day after the general election which was terrible to say the least for UKIP. The leadership election is now well under way with ten candidates standing to take the reigns. The new leader is set to be announced on the 29th September. Nigel Farage put UKIP on the political map, and they really need a character like him to get them back on it. The problem that UKIP had with Paul Nuttall was that he didn’t show much enthusiasm and was rather dull compared to Farage who made you know what UKIP stands for and what they wanted to achieve in the election.
With the Brexit vote a big win for UKIP they now have to decide what their main focus will be for the next general election in 2022 which you’d have to think will continue to be immigration to stop free movement once Brexit is complete. UKIP stereotypically have always been seen as just focusing on immigration and no other policies because people relate that to the party more than anything, so if UKIP want to become a major political party then they have to get the focus off immigration and onto other policies.
Another big issue that UKIP will have in trying to become on of the top three parties is trying to dismantle the big two, the Conservatives and Labour. In modern times the Lib Dems have attempted which resulted in a coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010. Since then however, the Lib Dems have been going downhill primarily due to their broken promises such as tuition fees.
UKIP currently have a strong youth division, known as Young Independence, which is growing fast with 3,500 members and is where they need to focus on gaining the youth vote primarily from Labour. They also currently have five official societies at universities including Essex, Exeter, and York which will help to boost the youth vote if they can get more young members starting societies at their university. Will Donnelly who is the Secretary for YI had this to say on the role the YI will have in making UKIP a major party:
“UKIP is the only party that backed the return of British independence last year. We currently see the squabbles taking place in the Cabinet in a desperate attempt to keep us in the European Union. We will leave the European Union, but probably in name only. We will only become an independent nation once again when we have control over our laws, immigration policy and our seat back the World Trade Organisation. UKIP is the only party that will help young people get a place on the housing ladder as we oppose the mass, uncontrolled immigration which has been prominent in Britain for many years.”
In terms of getting other voters they have to try and dismantle the two major parties. In order to do this they have to go for parties main weaknesses with the conservatives being their constant u-turns and labours being trident and defence. They also need to target areas that have a small margin between labour and conservative voters such as Kensington and St Ives which has less than a 1% majority. UKIP seem to be the only party truly trying to fight to dismantle the two main political parties which they must continue to be seen as doing in order to have a chance of winning seats in the future elections, or they’ll become another party like the Green party who didn’t really have any impact on the election.
Whoever does win the UKIP leadership election one thing is for sure, and that is they have a massive task to get UKIP to become a major fighting force in UK politics once again.