Is the UK Independence Party the United Kingdom's Tea Party?


The dust has finally reached the ground from last week's local elections in the United Kingdom. The biggest news is that the Tea Party-like UK Independence Party (UKIP) have done rather well coming from nowhere (4% in the last set of similar local elections) to getting almost 26% of all votes cast. In Lincolnshire, in the north of England, they are now the party of opposition in that council.

UKIP is as much of an establishment shaking organization as the Tea Party and Occupy were (at least at first) here in the United States. They were ignored, then maligned and now are being taken seriously after this latest election result. And like the Tea Party movement drew from the GOP, the UKIP draws mostly from the Conservative Party in the UK. However unlike the Tea Party movement there is substantial percentage of former Labour (equivalent to U.S. Democrats). However unlike the TPM, UKIP has made the decision that working inside the traditional parties is a road to no where and are a party in themselves. 

Interestingly enough while Labour, the main opposition party at the national level, did alright in this election, they did not do anywhere near as well as they might have wanted at this stage in the election cycle. Two years from now is the last possible point for a UK general election. If Labour wants to rule with a majority rather than having to have a coalition, then they need to be doing better than they are now. Even Labour-leaning newspaper, The Independent, is having a few worries about their progress:

“Now, 2009 was Labour’s lowest point in recent local elections history. Between then and the local elections on the same day as the 2010 general election, the party gained six or seven percentage points. The gains in yesterday’s local elections, therefore, suggest little or no further progress since the last general election," the paper outlined.

Prime Minister David Cameron who has called UKIP some uncomplimentary things, including “fruitcakes and racists” has suddenly changed his tune in the face of the pounding his party received over the last 24 hours. It might have helped that some of the counselors who lost have, called for his head, er called for a leadership election.

"It's no good insulting a political party that people have chosen to vote for," Cameron said.

Well he certainly isn’t going to get the million or so people who voted UKIP to vote Conservative by calling them names now is he? There are no doubt counsellors who lost their seats who are wondering why he didn’t realise this truism before this Thursday.

His coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats had as bad a 24 hours as he with their candidate in a by-election for UK parliament in South Shields, who gotgetting seventh place behind the neo-Nazi BNP.

“The Liberal Democrats suffered the indignity of losing their deposit as they finished seventh with 352 votes. Nick Clegg's party trailed in behind two independent candidates and the British National Party.”

Of course Nigel Farage and UKIP are rather pleased with themselves after a great result. There were many pundits who said that for UKIP to get over 50 seats it would be a “good night.” Considering they managed over 140 it was quite a success. Full results on a handy graph always help bring it into perspective.

In true UKIP style Farage had a celebratory pint round his local pub and reflected on his success. Having been down the pub with Farage I am not surprised in the slightest and can imagine how much he is enjoying his party’s success. The Daily Mail has a pic of him raising a glass to his new counsellors.

“As UKIP leader Nigel Farage enjoyed a lunchtime pint to toast big gains, the Prime Minister effectively withdrew his claim that they were a bunch of 'fruitcakes and racists' and was contrite about the need to understand why the anti-EU party had done so well."

The UK political establishment and the right-on crowd are no doubt moaning into their merlot tonight as the true picture is coming into focus. It is now a four party fight and of those the only party leader with a smile on his face is Farage. Now it is on to the European MEP elections in 2014, which UKIP was expected to win even before today, and then onto the general election a year later.