Britain: The unstoppable rise of UKIP

Britain's most successful ever fourth party makes headway from Euro troubles.

Nigel Farage, leader of libertarian Eurosceptic UKIP, has been referred to by Alex Singleton as Britain's Mahatma Gandhi. And while far-fetched, there are similarities between the two, as both battled against an invading force, both were ignored, then mocked, then attacked. In Gandhi's case he went on to become victorious. Will Farage follow suit? 

His latest outburst in the European Parliament, this time claiming Europe has become dominated by the Germans, has gone viral on YouTube. His prophecy that UKIP will win Britain's European parliamentary elections in 2014 has, according to Singleton, sent Tory parliamentarians into "crestfallen" despondency. Such seemingly absurd claims from UKIP might be expected to have induced derision, evidently not

It appears that David Cameron's acquiescence to Liberal Democrat demands has caused numerous Tories to seek a natural voting home elsewhere. And not just for elections to Strasbourg. Many, according to blog entries, are permanently shifting allegiences. Just as left-leaning LibDems deserted Nick Clegg for Ed Miliband's Labour Party, so thousands of Conservatives are migrating to UKIP.

There may be many reasons for this, not least demographic. For, as baby-boomers reach pensionable age their desire to see a return of sovereignty becomes paramount. The Euro project stumbles and frets and, as unelected techocrats press ahead with plans for fiscal and ultimately political union, UKIP's attractiveness to them and to far reaching swathes of Britain's population will be enhanced. 

Euroscepticism might well rise elsewhere in Europe, too, but in the UK it already has a firm foothold. Most surveys paint a picture of popular distaste for the EU, and a swelling desire for the Britain too promptly exit it.

Westminster's First-Past-The-Post electoral system severely inhibits the growth of minor parties. So, winning UK parliamentary seats would, under normal circumstances, be likely to be beyond UKIP's reach in the short term. But recent converts like millionaire ex-Conservative donor and now UKIP Treasurer, Stuart Wheeler, and former Conservative Treasurer Lord Hesketh will ensure that UKIP is effectively funded.  And UKIP bolsters Tory rebels by not standing against them at election time. Importantly, the next general election is in 2015, one year after UKIP could have hit the headlines having beaten both Tories and Labour at the European Elections, potentially.

At present, UKIP seem to be steady at 5 - 6% support in opinion polls, a couple of points or so behind the Liberal Democrats. This is around five times the level of interest in the Greens, for example. Peter Oborne wrote in The Telegraph "The Lib Dems are finished for the foreseeable future – the invariable fate of the smaller party in a coalition government. They will be fortunate to retain a dozen seats at the next general election. Meanwhile, Ukip will probably overtake them in the polls over the coming months, most likely pulling well ahead as the general election approaches."

Farage might rant, but his outsized personality and 'good bloke to enjoy a beer at the local with' image, has ensured he's never far from front pages. UKIP's star is in the ascendant. 

Germans and French acts to thwart the UK's attempts to repatriate sovereignty only serve to boost UKIP's popularity. Latest European plans to hit the City of London with a financial transactions tax will damage its profitability and hinder its liquidity. Insodoing, the Franco-German axis plays straight into UKIP's hands. I see another Farage speech hitting online records.

It appears UKIP can only go forward from now on. With 81 Tory Eurosceptic MPs rebelling against Cameron's three-line anti-referendum whip and subsequently setting up a parliamentary caucus, the 81 Group, is it only a matter of time before many of these people defect to UKIP?

So, are we witnessing the break up of the Conservative party, and the first steps in Britain's painful yet popular withdrawal from the European Union?

When characters like Michael Heseltine, a Conservative ex-Deputy PM, and Wolfgang Schäuble, the current German Finance Minister, claim the Euro will "bounce back" and the UK will enter the single currency "before long", you know Europhiles are both in denial and out of touch with mainstream UK opinion. 

I haven't seen opinion polled on the Euro, but an ICM/Guardian poll last month found that 70% of voters want a vote on Britain's EU membership; just 23% are against. 49% would vote to get Britain out of Europe; just 40% prefer to stay in.

Pretty clear, I'd say. As the only major political party to advocate UK withdrawal from the EU happens to be UKIP, where are supporters of that view going to turn come election time?

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