UK Independence Party
|Deputy Leader||Mike Hookem|
|Deputy Chairman||Margot Parker|
|Founded||3 September 1993|
|Preceded by||Anti-Federalist League|
Newton Abbot, Devon
|Youth wing||Young Independence|
|European affiliation||Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe|
|European Parliament group||Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy|
|House of Commons||
0 / 650
|House of Lords||
3 / 793
17 / 73
|National Assembly for Wales||
5 / 60
|Northern Ireland Assembly||
0 / 90
2 / 25
108 / 20,250
0 / 129
|Police and Crime Commissioners||
0 / 40
0 / 17
The UK Independence Party (UKIP //) is a Eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party in the United Kingdom. It presently has three representatives in the House of Lords and seventeen Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), making it the third-largest UK party in the European Parliament. It has five Assembly Members (AMs) in the National Assembly for Wales and two members in the London Assembly.
UKIP originated as the Anti-Federalist League, a single-issue Eurosceptic party established in London by the historian Alan Sked in 1991. It was renamed UKIP in 1993 but its growth remained slow. It was largely eclipsed by the Eurosceptic Referendum Party until the latter's 1997 dissolution. In 1997, Sked was ousted by a faction led by Nigel Farage, who became the party's preeminent figure. In 2006, Farage officially became leader and under his direction the party adopted a wider policy platform and capitalised on concerns about rising immigration, in particular among the White British working class. This resulted in significant breakthroughs at the 2013 local elections, 2014 European elections, and 2015 general election. The pressure UKIP exerted on the government is widely regarded as the main reason for the 2016 referendum which led to the decision for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. Following the referendum, Farage stepped down as UKIP leader, and the party's vote share heavily declined.
Ideologically positioned on the right-wing of British politics, political scientists characterise UKIP as part of a broader European radical right. UKIP's primary emphasis has been on Euroscepticism, calling for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union (EU). It promotes a British unionist and British nationalist agenda, encouraging a unitary British identity in opposition to growing Welsh and Scottish nationalisms. Political scientists have argued that in doing so, it conflates Britishness with Englishness and appeals to English nationalist sentiment. UKIP has also placed emphasis on lowering immigration, rejecting multiculturalism, and opposing what it calls the "Islamification" of Britain. Influenced by Thatcherism and classical liberalism, it describes itself as economically libertarian and promotes liberal economic policies. On social issues like LGBT rights, education policy, and criminal justice it is conservative. Having an ideological heritage stemming from the right-wing of the Conservative Party, it distinguishes itself from the mainstream political establishment through heavy use of populist rhetoric, including describing its supporters as the "People's Army".
Governed by its leader and National Executive Committee, UKIP is divided into twelve regional groups. A founding member of the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe European political party, UKIP's MEPs sit with the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament. While gaining electoral support from various sectors of British society, psephologists have established that its primary voting base is in England and consists largely of older, working-class white Britons. UKIP has faced a critical reception from mainstream political parties, much of the media, and anti-fascist groups. Its discourse on immigration and cultural identity generated accusations of racism and xenophobia, both of which it denies.
Foundation and early years: 1991–2004
UKIP began as the Anti-Federalist League, a Eurosceptic political party established in 1991 by the historian Alan Sked. The League opposed the recently signed Maastricht Treaty and sought to sway the governing Conservative Party toward removing the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). A former Liberal Party candidate, member of the Bruges Group, and professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), Sked had converted to Euroscepticism while teaching the LSE's European Studies programme. Under the Anti-Federalist League's banner, Sked was a candidate for Member of Parliament (MP) for Bath at the 1992 general election, gaining 0.2% of the vote. At a League meeting held in the LSE on 3 September 1993, the group was renamed the UK Independence Party, deliberately avoiding the term "British" so as to avoid confusion with the far-right British National Party (BNP).
UKIP contested the 1994 European Parliament election with little financing and much infighting, securing itself as the fifth largest party in that election with 1% of the vote. During this period, UKIP was viewed as a typical single-issue party by commentators, some of whom drew comparisons with the French Poujadist movement. Following the election, UKIP lost much support to the Referendum Party; founded by the multi-millionaire James Goldsmith in 1994, it shared UKIP's Eurosceptic approach but was far better funded. In the 1997 general election, UKIP fielded 194 candidates and secured 0.3% of the national vote; only one of its candidates, Nigel Farage in Salisbury, secured over 5% of the vote and had his deposit returned. UKIP was beaten by the Referendum Party in 163 of the 165 seats in which they stood against each other. The Referendum Party disbanded following Goldsmith's death later that year and many of its candidates joined UKIP.
After the election, Sked was pressured into resigning by a party faction led by Farage, David Lott and Michael Holmes, who deemed him too intellectual and dictatorial. Sked left the party, alleging that it had been infiltrated by racist and far-right elements, including BNP spies. This connection was emphasised in the press, particularly when Farage was photographed meeting with BNP activists. Holmes took over as party leader, and in the 1999 European Parliament elections—the first UK election for the European Parliament to use proportional representation—UKIP received 6.5% of the vote and three seats, in South East England (Farage), South West England (Holmes), and the East of England (Jeffrey Titford).
An internal power struggle ensued between Holmes and the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), which was critical of Holmes after he called for the European Parliament to have greater powers over the European Commission. Led by Farage, the NEC removed Holmes from power, and Titford was elected leader. In the 2001 general election, UKIP secured 1.5% of the vote, and six of its 428 candidates retained their deposits. It had lost much of its support to the Conservatives, whose leader William Hague had adopted increasingly Eurosceptic rhetoric during his campaign. In 2002, the former Conservative MP Roger Knapman was elected UKIP leader, bringing with him the experience of mainstream politics that the party had lacked. Knapman hired the political campaign consultant Dick Morris to advise UKIP. The party adopted the slogan "say no" and launched a national billboard campaign. In 2004, UKIP reorganised itself nationally as a private company limited by guarantee.
Growing visibility: 2004–14
UKIP's support increased during the 2004 European Parliament elections, when it placed third, securing 2.6 million votes (16.1%) and winning twelve seats. This had been made possible through increased funding from major donors and the celebrity endorsement of chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk, who stood as a candidate in the East Midlands. Kilroy-Silk then criticised Knapman's leadership, arguing that UKIP should stand against Conservative candidates, regardless of whether they were Eurosceptic or not. This position was rejected by many party members, who were uneasy regarding Kilroy-Silk. After Farage and Lott backed Knapman, Kilroy-Silk left the party in January 2005. Two weeks later, he founded his own rival, Veritas, taking a number of UKIP members—including both of its London Assembly members—with him.
After Kilroy-Silk's defection, UKIP's membership declined by a third and donations dropped by over a half. UKIP continued to be widely seen as a single-issue party and in the 2005 general election—when it fielded 496 candidates—it secured only 2.2% of the vote, and 40 candidates had their deposits returned. Electoral support for the BNP grew during this period, with academics and political commentators suggesting that the parties were largely competing for the same voter base, a section of about 20% of the UK population. Given that the BNP had outperformed UKIP in most of the seats that they both contested, many UKIP members, including several figures on the NEC, favoured an electoral pact with them, a proposal that Farage strongly condemned.
In 2006, Farage was elected leader. To attract support, he cultivated an image of himself as a "man of the people", openly smoking and drinking, showing disdain for the established parties, and speaking in an open manner that appeared unscripted. He sought to broaden UKIP's image from that of a single-issue party by introducing an array of socially conservative policies, including reducing immigration, tax cuts, restoring grammar schools, and climate change denial. In doing so he was attempting to attract disenfranchised former Conservatives who had left the party after its leader, David Cameron, had moved in a socially liberal direction. According to Farage, Cameron was "a socialist" whose priorities were "gay marriage, foreign aid, and wind farms". Cameron was highly critical of UKIP, referring to them as "fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists". The Conservatives' largest donor, Stuart Wheeler, donated £100,000 to UKIP after criticising Cameron's stance towards the Treaty of Lisbon and the EU. After trust in the mainstream parties was damaged by the UK parliamentary expenses scandal, UKIP received an immediate surge in support. This helped it in the 2009 European Parliament election, in which it secured 2.5 million votes (16.5%), resulting in 13 MEPs, becoming the second largest party in the European Parliament after the Conservatives. During the election, UKIP outperformed the BNP, whose electoral support base collapsed shortly after.
In September 2009, Farage resigned as leader. The subsequent leadership election was won by Malcolm Pearson, who emphasised UKIP's opposition to high immigration rates and Islamism in Britain, calling for a ban on the burqa being worn in public. Pearson was unpopular with the UKIP grassroots, who viewed him as an establishment figure too favourable to the Conservatives. In the 2010 general election, UKIP fielded 558 candidates and secured 3.1% of the vote (919,471 votes), but won no seats. Pearson stood down as leader in August, and Farage was re-elected in the leadership election with more than 60% of the vote.
Farage placed new emphasis on developing areas of local support through growth in local councils. Observing that the party had done well in areas dominated by white blue-collar workers with no educational attainment, and that conversely it had done poorly in areas with high numbers of graduates and ethnic minorities, UKIP's campaign refocused directly at the former target vote. UKIP support would be bolstered by dissatisfaction with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and the perception that its austerity policies benefited the socio-economic elite while imposing hardship on ordinary Britons. During this year, UKIP had witnessed far greater press coverage and growing support, with opinion polls placing it at around 10% support in late 2012. UKIP put up a record number of candidates for the 2013 local elections, achieving its strongest local government result, polling an average of 23% in the wards where it stood, and increasing its number of elected councillors from 4 to 147. This was the best result for a party outside the big three in British politics since the Second World War, with UKIP being described as "the most popular political insurgency" in Britain since the Social Democratic Party during the 1980s.
Entering mainstream politics: 2014–16
In March 2014, Ofcom awarded UKIP "major party status". In the 2014 local elections, UKIP won 163 seats, an increase of 128, but did not take control of any council. In the 2014 European Parliament elections, UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.5%) of any British party, producing 24 MEPs. The party won seats in every region of Britain, including its first in Scotland. It made strong gains in traditionally Labour voting areas within Wales and the North of England; it for instance came either first or second in all 72 council areas of the latter. The victory established Farage and UKIP as "truly household names". It was the first time since 1906 that a party other than Labour or the Conservatives had won the most votes in a UK-wide election.
UKIP gained its first MP when Conservative defector Douglas Carswell won the seat of Clacton during a October 2014 by-election. In November fellow Conservative defector Mark Reckless became UKIP's second MP in a Rochester and Strood by-election. In the 2015 general election, UKIP secured over 3.8 million votes (12.6% of the total), replacing the Liberal Democrats as the third most popular party, but only secured one seat, with Carswell retaining his seat and Reckless losing his. In the run-up to the election, Farage stated that he would resign as party leader if he did not win South Thanet. On failing to do so, he resigned, although was reinstated three days later when the NEC rejected his resignation. A period of 'civil war' broke out among senior membership between those who favoured Farage's leadership and those seeking a change. In the 2016 National Assembly for Wales election, UKIP nearly tripled their share of votes (from 4.7 per cent to 12.5 per cent) and won seven seats.
To counter the loss of further votes to UKIP, the governing Conservatives promised a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU. Rather than taking part in the official Vote Leave campaign, to which various Eurosceptic Conservative and Labour politicians were linked, UKIP affiliated itself with the Leave.EU campaign group. Farage gained regular press coverage during the campaign, in which Leave.EU emphasised what it characterised as the negative impact of immigration on local communities and public services. The June 2016 referendum produced a 51.89% majority in favour of leaving the EU: the accomplishment of UKIP's raison d'être raised questions about the party's future. The loss of its MEPs would result in the loss of its primary institutional representation and a key source of its funding.
After the referendum, Farage resigned as UKIP leader. Diane James was elected as his successor, but resigned after 18 days, and left the party in November 2016. Farage's former deputy, Paul Nuttall, was elected leader that month. In March 2017, the party's only MP, Carswell, left the party to sit as an independent; the next month, Reckless also left UKIP. In the 2017 local elections, UKIP lost all 145 seats it was defending but gained one on Lancashire County Council. These results led several prominent former UKIP members to call for the disbanding of the party. In the following 2017 general election, UKIP received fewer than 600,000 votes and gained no seats. The following day, Nuttall resigned, and Steve Crowther took over as interim party leader.
On 24 July 2017, UKIP lost its majority on Thanet council when Councillor Beverly Martin switched to the Conservatives, citing personal disagreements with UKIP's policies in the region. On 10 September, it was announced that all three UKIP councillors on Plymouth council had chosen to switch to the Conservatives. At the party's convention in Torquay on 29 September 2017, a new logo featuring a lion and the slogan "for the nation" was introduced. Later that day, Henry Bolton, a former soldier, was elected as the party's new leader. Two of the leadership candidates beaten by Bolton left the party: fourth place John Rees-Evans announced plans to found a new political party, called Affinity, while second place Anne-Marie Waters set up a new political party, called For Britain.
In January 2018, it became known that Bolton had left his wife and embarked on a relationship with Jo Marney, a model and party member nearly 30 years his junior. As a consequence Bolton faced demands from members of UKIP that he stand down as leader. On 14 January it was reported that Marney had been suspended from UKIP following allegations that she had sent a series of SMS messages containing racist comments about Prince Harry's fiancée, Meghan Markle. On 19 January 2018, Jonathan Arnott resigned from the party, continuing to sit as an independent MEP. In his resignation letter, he stated that he had lost confidence in Bolton, who he felt was "not the right person for the job" – but thought no better of those "jockeying" for position in the party.
On 21 January, the UKIP National Executive Committee (NEC) delivered a vote of no confidence in Bolton; only Bolton voted against the motion. Bolton had made it clear earlier that day that he would not resign if the vote went against him, because he felt another leadership election would destroy the party. Consequently, at the emergency meeting of UKIP's NEC, it was decided that party members would be balloted on whether Bolton should be removed from office, as the NEC does not itself have the power to dismiss the leader. The following day, Margot Parker resigned as deputy leader, claiming Bolton had left the party in "limbo". Bolton's assistant deputy, as well as the spokesmen for government, education, immigration, and trade and industry resigned on the same day, bringing the total number of resignations to twelve. A few days later on 27 January, all seventeen UKIP members of Thurrock Council left the party, saying they had "had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics", and formed Thurrock Independents. On 17 February 2018, members of UKIP passed a vote of no confidence in Bolton and he was replaced as leader by Gerard Batten until a new leadership election could be held. Batten subsequently stood unopposed and his election as the new leader of UKIP was announced on 14 April 2018. Batten also confirmed that he planned to resign in 12 months' time so a full contest can take place.
In the 2018 local elections, UKIP lost 124 of the 126 seats it was defending, but gained a single seat in Derby for a net change of minus 123. On 14 May 2018, UKIP lost its last councillor on the Great Yarmouth Council, Chris Walch. He stated he would continue to sit on the Council as an Independent. On 28 May 2018, UKIP held 108 of the UK's 20,250 local council seats.
James Carver left UKIP to sit as an independent on 28 May 2018, becoming the sixth member of UKIP's MEP contingent to quit since 2014. In terms of UK representation, UKIP is now third behind Labour who have 20 MEPs and the Conservatives who have 19.
Ideology and policies
UKIP are situated on the right wing of the left–right political spectrum. More specifically, academic political scientists and political commentators have described UKIP as a right-wing populist party, and as part of Europe's wider radical right. The term "populism" refers to political groups which ideologically contrast "the people" against an elite or group of "dangerous others" whom the populists claim threaten the sovereignty of "the people", and during its establishment in 1993, UKIP's founders explicitly described it as a populist party. At the time, its "ideological heritage" lay within the right wing of the Conservative Party, and UKIP was influenced by the "Tory populism" of Conservative politicians Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell. The party's growth is part of a wider rise in the prominence of right-wing populist groups across the Western world, and comparisons have been drawn between UKIP and the likes of the Tea Party movement in the United States and the True Finns in Finland. Central to its populism is its defence of democracy and its claim to represent the true democratic will of the British people.
The political scientists Amir Abedi and Thomas Carl Lundberg characterised UKIP as an "Anti-Political Establishment" party. The party's rhetoric presents the idea that there is a fundamental divide between the British population and the elite who govern the country. UKIP claims to stand up for ordinary people against this political elite. UKIP politician Bill Etheridge for instance claimed that his party represented "a democratic revolution... the people of Britain rising up and fighting to wrestle power from the elite". Contributing to this anti-establishment message, Farage describes the party's supporters as "the People's Army", and he regularly held photo-opportunities and journalistic interviews in a pub, thus cultivating an "erudite everyman" image that contrasted with his past as a merchant banker.
UKIP uses recurring populist rhetoric—for instance by describing its policies as "common sense" and "straight talking"—in order to present itself as a straightforward alternative to the mainstream parties and their supposedly elusive and complex discourse. UKIP presents the UK's three primary parties—the Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats—as being essentially interchangeable, referring to them with the portmanteau of "LibLabCon". Farage accused all three parties of being social-democratic in ideology and "virtually indistinguishable from one another on nearly all the key issues". Farage has also accused the Scottish National Party of being "the voice of anti-Englishness", suggesting that elements of the Scottish nationalist movement are "deeply racist, with a total hatred of the English".
Nationalism and British Unionism
As the party's name suggests, UKIP has always had the politics of national identity at its core. The party is nationalist in orientation, and its "basic claim—that the highest priority for the British polity is to assure that it is fully governed by the national state—is a nationalist one." The party describes its position as being that of civic nationalism, and in its manifesto explicitly rejects ethnic nationalism by encouraging support from Britons of all ethnicities and religions. Rejecting claims that it is racist, both Sked and later Farage have described UKIP as a "non-racist, non-sectarian party". In UKIP's literature, the party has placed an emphasis on "restoring Britishness" and counteracting what it sees as a "serious existential crisis" exhibited by the "Islamification" of Britain, the "pseudo-nationalisms" of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and the multicultural and supranational policies promoted by "the cultural left", describing its own stance as being "unashamedly unicultural". It has been suggested that this attitude compromises the party's claim that its form of British nationalism is civic and inclusive.
UKIP considers itself to be a British unionist party, although its support base is centred largely in England. Farage has characterised his party's growth as "a very English rebellion", and has described UKIP as "unashamedly patriotic, proud to be who we are as a nation". The political scientist Richard Hayton argued that UKIP's British unionism reflects "Anglo-Britishness", a perspective that blurs the distinction between Britain and England. With Mycock, Hayton argued that in conflating Englishness with Britishness, UKIP exhibited an "inherent Anglocentrism" that negates the distinct culture of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish peoples of the United Kingdom. Hayton suggests that UKIP tap into "a vein of nostalgic cultural nationalism" within England, and it has been noted that UKIP's discourse frames the image of Englishness in a nostalgic manner, harking back to the years before the collapse of the British Empire.
UKIP has emphasised the need to correct what it perceives as the United Kingdom's imbalance against England resulting from the "West Lothian question" and the Barnett formula. The party has mobilised English nationalist sentiment brought on by English concerns following the devolution within the UK and the rise of Welsh and Scottish nationalisms. The party initially opposed federalism in the UK, criticising the establishment of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament. However, in September 2011 Farage and the NEC announced their support for the establishment of an English Parliament to accompany the other devolved governments. In its 2015 manifesto, it promised to make St. George's Day and St. David's Day bank holidays in England and Wales, respectively. Similarly, UKIP's 2017 manifesto pledged to declare 23 June British Independence Day and observe it annually as a national holiday.
Euroscepticism, immigration and foreign policy
UKIP embraces the ideology of hard Euroscepticism, also known as "Eurorejectionism". Opposition to the United Kingdom's continued membership of the European Union has been its "core issue" and is "central to the party's identity". UKIP characterises the EU as a fundamentally undemocratic institution and stresses the need to regain what it describes as the UK's national sovereignty from the EU. It presents the EU as being an exemplar of non-accountability, corruption, and inefficiency, and views it as being responsible for the "flooding" of the UK with migrants, in particular from Eastern Europe. UKIP emphasises Euroscepticism to a far greater extent than any of Western Europe's other main radical right parties, and it was only post-2010 that it began seriously articulating other issues. Hayton nevertheless suggested that Euroscepticism still remains "the lens through which most of its other policy positions are framed and understood".
The party opposed the 2004 enlargement of the European Union into eastern Europe. UKIP advocated leaving the European Union, stopping payments to the EU, and withdrawing from EU treaties, while maintaining trading ties with other European countries. Initially, UKIP's policy was that, in the event of them winning a general election, it would remove the UK from the EU without a referendum on the issue. The party leadership later suggested a referendum, expressing the view that in the case of an exit vote, it could negotiate favourable terms for the country's withdrawal, for instance through ensuring a free trade agreement between the UK and EU. UKIP eventually committed to a referendum in their 2015 manifesto. In contrast to involvement in the EU, UKIP has emphasised the UK's global connections, in particularly to member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. UKIP rejected the description that they were "Europhobes", maintaining that its stance was anti-EU, not anti-European.
UKIP has placed great emphasis on the issue of immigration to the UK, and in 2013 Farage described it as "the biggest single issue facing this party". UKIP attributes UK membership of the EU as the core cause of immigration to the UK, citing the Union's open-border policies as the reason why large numbers of East European migrants have moved to Britain. On their campaign billboards, UKIP have presented EU migrants as a source of crime, as well as a pressure on housing, the welfare state, and the health service. Farage has emphasised not only the economic impact of migration but also the public anxieties regarding the cultural changes brought by immigration. In its 2009 electoral manifesto, UKIP proposed a five-year ban on any migrants coming to the UK. By 2015, it had modified this to the view that the five-year ban should apply only to unskilled migrants. To regulate the arrival of skilled migrants, it called for the UK to adopt a points-based system akin to that employed by Australia. It advocated the establishment of a watchdog to help curb immigration, and bring the levels of net annual immigration down from the hundreds of thousands to between 20,000 and 50,000, which was the average level in the UK between 1950 and 2000. UKIP calls for all immigrants to require compulsory health insurance, and proposes that migrants be barred from claiming any state benefits until they had been resident in the UK for at least five years.
UKIP gained traction from the fact that post-2008, immigration had come to the forefront of many Britons' minds as a result of increased EU migration and its concomitant social changes. By the 2015 general election, the political scientists James Dennison and Matthew Goodwin argued, UKIP had secured "ownership" of the immigration issue among British voters, having secured it from the Conservatives. However, the party's campaign against immigration has been accused of using racism and xenophobia to win votes. Political scientist David Art suggested that in its campaign to restrict immigration, UKIP had "flirted with xenophobia", while Daniel T. Dye stated that part of the party's appeal was its "sometimes-xenophobic populism", and the journalist Daniel Trilling stated that UKIP tapped into the "anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim populism" that was popular in the late 2000s. The political scientist Simon Usherwood stated that UKIP's hardening of immigration policy "risked reinforcing the party's profile as a quasi-far right grouping", elsewhere stating that the party was only held together by its opposition to the EU and immigration, suggesting that it had "no ideological coherence" beyond that.
In its 2015 campaign, UKIP called for the foreign aid budget to be cut. It has also advocated a 40% increase in the UK's national defence budget. It opposes UK military involvement in conflicts that are not perceived to be in the national interest, specifically rejecting the concept of humanitarian interventionism. For instance, in 2014 it opposed the Cameron government's plans to intervene militarily against the government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.
On economic policy, UKIP shares the main three parties' acceptance of the core principles of a capitalist market economy, and the party is generally at ease with the global free market. The academics Simon Winlow, Steve Hall, and James Treadwell commented that on economic issues, "UKIP wants to have its cake and eat it. It wants to retain the best bits of the market economy while discarding what it considers the negative outcomes of 21st-century neoliberalism." They noted for instance that it wanted "free movement of capital" yet wanted to curtail "the free movement of workers across borders".
On economic issues, UKIP's original activist base was largely libertarian, supporting an economically liberal approach. Its libertarian views have been influenced by classical liberalism and Thatcherism, with Thatcher representing a key influence on UKIP's thought. Farage has characterised UKIP as "the true inheritors" of Thatcher, claiming that the party never would have formed had Thatcher remained Prime Minister of the UK throughout the 1990s. Winlow, Hall, and Treadwell suggested that a UKIP government would pursue "hard-core Thatcherism" on economic policy. UKIP presents itself as a libertarian party, and the political scientists David Deacon and Dominic Wring described it as articulating "a potent brand of libertarian populism". However, commentators writing in The Spectator, The Independent, and the New Statesman have all challenged the description of UKIP as libertarian, highlighting its socially conservative and economically protectionist policies as being contrary to a libertarian ethos.
UKIP propose an increase in the personal allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage earnings (approx. £13,500 as of the 2015 General Election). It also plans to abolish Inheritance Tax. It would introduce a 35p income tax rate for taxable income between £42,285 and £55,000, with the 40p rate payable above that. UKIP would allow businesses to favour British workers over migrants, and would repeal "much of" Britain's racial discrimination law, which was described as "shocking" by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government and viewed as discriminatory by others. However, Farage insists that his comments regarding his party's policies on these matters have been "wilfully misinterpreted". Although the party does not have an official stance on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the party's former international trade spokesperson (Lord Dartmouth) and former health and social care spokesperson (Louise Bours) have stated that they do not wish the National Health Service to be included in the trade deal, according to the International Business Times.
On health, UKIP's policy is to keep the National Health Service and general practitioner visits free at the point of use for UK citizens. Non-citizens would be required to have approved medical insurance "as a condition of entering the UK". In 2015, Farage attracted widespread press attention for suggesting that HIV positive patients who were not UK citizens should not receive treatment on the NHS. In that same speech he stated that the UK should put the NHS "there for British people and families, who in many cases have paid into the system for years". Farage has spoken in favour of an insurance-based system in the past, which he said would resemble the French and Dutch style system rather than an American style private system, but this was rejected by the party. He has commented, "we may have to think about ways in the future about dealing with health care differently". Critics of UKIP have claimed that the party's real desire is to dismantle and privatise the NHS, a claim bolstered by the publication of leaked documents showing that in 2013 the UKIP NEC privately spoke positively of NHS privatisation.
In The Guardian, commentator Ed Rooksby described UKIP's approach to many social issues as being "traditionalist and socially conservative", while political scientist Stephen Driver has referred to the party's appeals to "traditional social values". UKIP opposed the introduction of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom. UKIP wants to repeal the Human Rights Act, and remove Britain from both the European Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). On the repeal of Britain's signatory to the ECHR, UKIP would like to see a referendum on the reintroduction of the death penalty in the UK.
Although Farage had long been reticent about focusing on public anxieties surrounding Muslims in Britain, he spoke out following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, claiming that there was a "fifth column" of Islamists in the UK who—while "mercifully small" in number—were "out to destroy our whole civilisation". At the same time he called for Western states to do more to promote their Judeo-Christian heritage, and criticised state multiculturalism for promoting social segregation, discouraging integration, and generating a "tick-box approach" to identity politics. In its 2017 manifesto, UKIP pledged to abolish the existence of sharia courts in the UK and ban the wearing of the niqab and burka in public; it claimed that these were needed to promote the integration of Muslims with wider British society.
UKIP is the only major political party in the United Kingdom that does not endorse renewable energy and lower carbon emissions, and its media output regularly promotes climate change denial. Farage and other senior UKIP figures have repeatedly spoken out against the construction of wind farms, deeming them a blot on the rural landscape. UKIP's media present renewable energy as inefficient and unaffordable, and they promote the use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy and fracking. UKIP has announced that it would repeal the Climate Change Act 2008 and has placed an emphasis on protecting the Green Belt.
With regard to education policy, UKIP supports selective education through the creation of additional grammar schools. In its 2015 manifesto, UKIP promised to teach a chronological understanding of "British history and achievements" in schools, and it calls for the scrapping of sex education for children under 11. UKIP would introduce an option for students to take an apprenticeship qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs which can be continued at A Level. Schools would be investigated by OFSTED on the presentation of a petition to the Department for Education signed by 25% of parents or governors. UKIP have promoted the scrapping of the government target that 50% of school leavers attend university, and present the policy that tuition fees would be scrapped for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering or mathematics.
In 2012, it opposed disestablishment of the Church of England and said it would consider a transfer of part of the Crown Estate back to the Monarchy, in exchange for an end to annual state support. Farage has argued that British Overseas Territories like Gibraltar should have representatives in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, akin to the privileges given to French overseas territories in France. Farage believes that all citizens for whom the British Parliament passes legislation, whether in the United Kingdom or its territories, deserve democratic representation in that Parliament.
In 2008, Usherwood noted that UKIP relied heavily on a small number of major financial backers. According to The Guardian, a leaked internal report to UKIP's executive committee dated to September 2012 shows that the party's leader argued that "the key to money for us will be the hedge fund industry".
According to UKIP's annual returns to the Electoral Commission, in 2013 the party had a total income of £2,479,314. Of this, £714,492 was from membership and subscriptions, £32,115 from fundraising activities and £1,361,640 from donations. By law, individual donations over £7,500 must be reported.
UKIP has several high-profile backers. In March 2009, the Conservative Party's biggest-ever donor, Stuart Wheeler, donated £100,000 to UKIP after criticising Cameron's stance towards the Treaty of Lisbon. He was then expelled from the Conservatives and in 2011 appointed treasurer of UKIP. In October 2014, Arron Banks, who previously gave £25,000 to the Conservatives, increased his UKIP donation from £100,000 to £1 million after Hague said he had never heard of him. The multi-millionaire Paul Sykes has helped finance the party, donating over £1 million to their 2014 campaign at the European Parliament.
In December 2014, Richard Desmond, proprietor of Express Newspapers, donated £300,000 to UKIP. Desmond had previously made the UKIP peer David Stevens his deputy chairman. The donation indicated that Desmond's papers, the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday, would back UKIP in the 2015 general election. Three weeks before the election, Desmond gave the party a further £1 million.
In September 2016, the major UKIP donor, Arron Banks, said that UKIP would be "dead in the water" if Diane James did not become leader. Following her departure after 18 days, Banks said that he would leave UKIP if Steven Woolfe was prevented from running for leader, and if two other members remained in the party: "If Neil Hamilton and Douglas Carswell [UKIP's only MP] remain in the party, and the NEC decide that Steven Woolfe cannot run for leader, I will be leaving Ukip".
UKIP's membership numbers increased from 2002 to the time of the 2004 European Parliament election, before hovering around the 16,000 mark during the late 2000s. In 2004, the party claimed 20,000 members, with this remaining broadly stable, and in June 2007 it had a recorded 16,700 members. By July 2013, the figure had grown to 30,000 before ending the year at 32,447. In 2014, the number was 36,000 on 22 April, by 7 May reached 37,000 and on 19 May, less than a fortnight later and only three days before the 2014 European Parliament election, rose to 38,000. In January 2015, UKIP membership was the fifth highest of British parties.
In June 2018, four political activists known through social media - Paul Joseph Watson, Mark Meechan, Carl Benjamin and Milo Yiannopoulos - joined the party. This was followed by the party gaining around five hundred members.
In its early years, UKIP targeted itself toward southern English, middle-class Eurosceptic voters, those who had been supporters of the Conservative Party until John Major's Conservative government signed the Maastricht Treaty. This led to the widespread perception that UKIP's supporters were primarily middle-class ex-Conservative voters, with commentator Peter Oborne characterising UKIP as "the Conservative Party in exile".
After 2009, UKIP refocused its attention to appeal primarily to white British, working-class, blue-collar workers; those who had traditionally voted Labour or in some cases for Thatcher's Conservatives but who had ceased voting or begun to vote BNP since the emergence of the New Labour project in the 1990s. In this way, UKIP's support base does not line up with the historical left-right divide in British politics, instead being primarily rooted in class divisions. This mirrored the voting base of other radical right parties across Western Europe which had grown since the early 1990s. This scenario had come about following the rapid growth of the middle-classes and the concomitant decline of the working-class population in Western Europe; the centre-left, social-democratic parties who had traditionally courted the support of the working classes largely switched their attention to the newly emergent middle-classes, leaving their initial support base increasingly alienated and creating the vacuum which the radical right exploited.
On the basis of their extensive study of data on the subject, in 2014 the political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford concluded that "UKIP's support has a very clear social profile, more so than any of the mainstream parties. Their electoral base is old, male, working class, white and less educated". They found that 57% of professed UKIP supporters were over the age of 54, while only one in ten were under 35, which they attributed to the fact that UKIP's socially conservative and Eurosceptic platform appealed far more to Britain's older generations that their younger counterparts, who were more socially liberal and less antagonistic toward the EU.
57% of UKIP supporters were male, which Ford and Goodwin suggested was due to women voters being put off by a number of high-profile sexist remarks made by UKIP candidates. 99.6% of UKIP supporters identified as white, reflecting the fact that ethnic minorities tended to avoid the party. 55% of UKIP supporters had left school aged 16 or under, with only 24% having attended university, suggesting that the party primarily appealed to the least educated voters in society. Ford and Goodwin also found that UKIP's support base was more working-class than that of any other party, with 42% of supporters in blue-collar jobs. Ford and Goodwin described UKIP's voters as primarily comprising the "left behind" sector of society, "older, less skilled and less well educated working-class voters" who felt disenfranchised from the mainstream political parties which had increasingly focused on attracting the support of middle-class swing voters.
Ford and Goodwin nevertheless noted that UKIP was "not a purely blue-collar party but an alliance of manual workers, employers and the self-employed." Geoffrey Evans and Jon Mellon highlighted that UKIP receive "a greater proportion of their support from lower professionals and managers" than from any other class group. They highlighted that polls repeatedly demonstrated that UKIP drew more votes from Conservative voters than Labour ones. They suggested that the assumption that working-class voters who supported UKIP had previously been Labour voters was misplaced, suggesting that these people had ceased voting for Labour "a long time before UKIP were an effective political presence", having been alienated by Labour's "pro-middle class, pro-EU and, as it eventually turned out, pro-immigration agenda". In 2011, Goodwin, Ford, and David Cutts published a study that identified Euroscepticism as the main causal factor for voters supporting UKIP, with concern over immigration levels and distrust of the political establishment also featuring as important motives. They noted, however, that during elections for the European Parliament, UKIP was able to broaden its support to gain the vote of largely middle-class Eurosceptics who vote Conservative in other elections.
From their analysis of the data, Ford and Goodwin stated that UKIP's support base has "strong parallels" both with that of Western Europe's other radical right parties and with the BNP during their electoral heyday. Conversely, an earlier study by Richard Whitaker and Philip Lynch, based on polling data from YouGov, concluded that UKIP voters were distinct from those of far right parties. The authors found that voter support for UKIP correlated with concerns about the value of immigration and a lack of trust in the political system, but the biggest explanatory factor for their support of UKIP was Euroscepticism. A further study by the same authors suggests that UKIP voters' core beliefs align very closely to those of the UKIP candidates; particularly so on issues surrounding European integration, which has resulted in Conservative voters switching to UKIP due to Conservative divisions on this issue. One study found that 63% of UKIP voters considered themselves to be right-wing, while 22% thought centrist and 16% thought leftist. 81% believed that immigration undermined British culture, a view shared by only half the wider British population. On economic issues, there was a divide between UKIP voters and the party itself. In contrast to the party's economic liberalism, UKIP supporters often held more leftist attitudes to the economy, with almost 80% opining that big business took advantage of working people and almost 70% thinking that privatisation had gone too far.
UKIP has been most successful along England's eastern and southern coasts, in parts of south-west England, and in the Labour heartlands of Northern England and Wales. It has not done well in London and in university towns and urban areas with younger populations like Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, and Brighton. It has done well in areas with large numbers of old, white, and poorer people, and weaker in areas with larger numbers of younger, more ethnically and culturally diverse, and financially secure people. Ford and Goodwin noted that UKIP "barely registers" with young Britons, graduates, ethnic minorities, and pro-EU voters. According to an Opinium poll in December 2014 on the views of 17- to 22-year-olds, Farage was the least popular political leader. Only 3% of young people questioned said that they intended to vote for UKIP, compared with 19% among voters of all ages. The 17% who said they would vote outside the three main parties were four times more likely to vote for the Green Party than for UKIP. Conversely, a March 2015 Ipsos Mori poll found among 18- to 34-year-olds UKIP was polling nearly as well as the Green Party, somewhat contradicting the idea that Farage lacked appeal for younger voters. On the basis of their fieldwork among supporters of the English Defence League (EDL), an anti-Islam social movement, Winlow, Hall, and Treadwell noted that most EDL supporters whom they encountered intended to vote for UKIP in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
UKIP supporters are sometimes nicknamed "kippers". In May 2017, in response to large defections from the party, Goodwin said "Former Kippers did not walk but literally sprinted over to the Conservatives."
|#||Leader||Took office||Left office||Notes|
|1||Alan Sked||3 September 1993||July 1997||Party founder|
|Craig Mackinlay served as Acting Leader during this interim|
|2||Michael Holmes||September 1997||22 January 2000||MEP 1999–2004|
|3||Jeffrey Titford||22 January 2000||5 October 2002||MEP 1999–2009|
|4||Roger Knapman||5 October 2002||12 September 2006||MEP 2004–2009|
|5||Nigel Farage||12 September 2006||27 November 2009||MEP from 1999|
|6||Malcolm Pearson||27 November 2009||2 September 2010||Member of House of Lords|
|Jeffrey Titford served as Acting Leader during this interim|
|(5)||Nigel Farage||5 November 2010||16 September 2016|
|7||Diane James||16 September 2016||4 October 2016[N 1]||Leader-elect, MEP from 2014|
|Nigel Farage served as Acting Leader during this interim|
|8||Paul Nuttall||28 November 2016||9 June 2017||MEP from 2009|
|Steve Crowther served as Acting Leader during this interim|
|9||Henry Bolton||29 September 2017||17 February 2018|
|Gerard Batten served as Acting Leader during this interim|
|10||Gerard Batten||14 April 2018||Incumbent||MEP from 2004|
|2||Graham Booth||2000–02||MEP 2002–2008|
|3||Mike Nattrass||2002–06||MEP 2004–2014|
|4||David Campbell-Bannerman||2006–10||MEP since 2009|
|5||Paul Nuttall||2010–16||MEP since 2009|
|6||Peter Whittle||2016–17||London AM since 2016|
|7||Margot Parker||2017–18||MEP since 2014|
|8||Mike Hookem||2018–||MEP since 2014|
UKIP's organisation is divided into twelve regions: London, South East, South West, Eastern, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire, North East, North West, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. An additional, thirteenth branch, operates in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; it held its first public meeting at the Lord Nelson pub in April 2013.
At the end of 2013 the UKIP Scotland was dissolved after infighting tore the regional party apart; the party's administrative body was dissolved, Mike Scott-Hayward (the chairman and chief fundraiser) quit, and Farage fired Lord Christopher Monckton via email. The national party and UKIP Scotland focused on supporting the candidates for the upcoming European elections. After David Coburn won the seat, he was appointed leader of UKIP Scotland.
House of Commons
In the UK, the first-past-the-post voting system for electing MPs to the House of Commons was a significant barrier to UKIP, whose support was widely distributed across different areas rather than being strongly focused in particular constituencies. Further, the system encouraged tactical voting, with many UKIP supporters believing that a vote for the party would be a wasted vote. Recognising this, Farage believed that the best way to win a seat in the House of Commons was to win a by-election, with UKIP contesting a number of these from 2010 onward. Over the next few years, it contested a number of by-elections around the country, coming second in both Barnsley Central and Rotherham. In 2008, Bob Spink, the MP for Castle Point, resigned the Tory whip (becoming an Independent) but in April that year joined UKIP. However, in November he appeared again as an Independent in Commons proceedings, ultimately losing the seat to a Conservative in 2010.
In 2014, two Conservative MPs changed allegiance to UKIP and resigned their seats to fight by-elections for UKIP. Douglas Carswell won the Clacton by-election on 9 October, making him the first MP to be elected representing UKIP. Mark Reckless was also victorious in the Rochester and Strood by-election on 20 November. In the 2015 General Election, Carswell kept his seat in Clacton but Reckless lost Rochester to the Conservative Kelly Tolhurst. UKIP had 3,881,129 votes (12.6%) and was the third largest party on vote share, yet it won only one seat. Because of this, there were calls from some in UKIP for a voting reform in favour of proportional representation. Carswell quit the party in March 2017 to become an independent, leaving UKIP without any MPs in the Commons. In the 2017 election, a Snap election initiated by PM Theresa May and scheduled for 8 June 2017, UKIP got 1.9% of the votes (after 12.6% in the 2015 election) and no seats in the House of Commons.
House of Lords
On 24 June 1995, UKIP gained its first member of the House of Lords, The Lord Grantley, who had joined the party in 1993 from the Conservatives and had recently succeeded to his father's titles. However, with the coming House of Lords Act 1999, he decided not to stand for election as a continuing member, and so left the House in November 1999. Earlier in 1999, UKIP had gained a second peer in the House of Lords, The Earl of Bradford, but he, too, left the House in November 1999 because of the House of Lords Act. The Lord Pearson of Rannoch and The Lord Willoughby de Broke both defected to UKIP in 2007, giving the party its first representation in the House of Lords since the departure of Lord Grantley and Lord Bradford. The Lord Pearson of Rannoch went on to serve as party leader from November 2009 to September 2010. On 18 September 2012, The Lord Stevens of Ludgate joined UKIP, having sat as an Independent Conservative since his expulsion from the Conservatives in 2004.
Regional assemblies and parliaments
UKIP competes electorally in all four nations of the United Kingdom. In October 2012, UKIP gained its first representation in the Northern Ireland Assembly in David McNarry, MLA for Strangford, who had been sitting as an independent, following his expulsion from the Ulster Unionist Party. The party however failed to continue its representation at the 2016 election, coming within a hundred votes of taking a seat in East Antrim.
UKIP's support has been particularly weak in Scotland, where it has no representatives in the devolved parliament. UKIP fielded candidates at the Scottish Parliament election on 5 May 2011, when its platform included a commitment to keep the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, while replacing the separately-elected Members of the Scottish Parliament with the Members of the House of Commons elected in Scotland. The party also fielded candidates for the National Assembly for Wales. In the 2016 election, it entered the Assembly for the first time, winning seven of 60 seats.
UKIP initially paid little attention to local government elections. However, this changed after Farage observed that building localised strongholds of support in various parts of the country had been the process by which the Liberal Democrats had entered the House of Commons, and that this was a strategy that could benefit UKIP. UKIP subsequently focused on the 2011 local elections, in which it fielded over 1,100 candidates, winning seven and becoming the main opposition in over 100.
The first UKIP local council election win occurred when one of its members was elected to South Cambridgeshire District Council in 2000. A number of Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent local councillors in all four constituent nations of the UK defected to UKIP over subsequent years, with the most recent defections to date (May to July 2013) coming from former Conservative councillors in the London Boroughs of Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Havering, and from Labour in Northampton and North-East Lincolnshire. In May 2013, 33 English and one Welsh council held local elections, with UKIP gaining 139 seats for a total of 147, with significant gains in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Kent.
In the 2013 local elections, UKIP won 147 seats and established itself as the largest opposition party in six English county councils. At the 2013 and 2014 local elections, UKIP made significant gains to become the fourth largest party in terms of councillors in England, and fifth largest in the UK, with over 300 seats (out of about 21,000). In the 2015 local elections, UKIP took control of Thanet District Council, its first majority control of a council. However, the party lost control later in the year after several of its councillors defected and it lost its majority. UKIP later took back control as a majority after winning the 2016 Northwood ward by-election, taking its number of councillors up to 29. In the 2016 local election, UKIP won 58 council seats, an increase of 25. In the United Kingdom local elections, 2017, UKIP lost all of the seats it was defending but gained one from Labour on Lancashire County Council.
As a result of its hard Eurosceptic approach, UKIP does not recognise the legitimacy of the European Parliament, and under Sked's leadership refused to take any of the EP seats that it won. This changed after 1997, when the party decided that its elected representatives would take such seats to publicise its anti-EU agenda. As a result of the 1999 European parliament election, three UKIP MEPs were elected to the European Parliament. Together with Eurosceptic parties from other nations, they formed a new European parliamentary group called Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD).
Following the 2004 European parliament election, 37 MEPs from the UK, Poland, Denmark and Sweden founded a new European Parliamentary group called Independence and Democracy as a direct successor to the EDD group. After the 2009 European parliament election, UKIP was a founder member of a new right-wing grouping called Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) comprising Eurosceptic, radical right, nationalist, national-conservative and other political factions. This group was more right-wing than the previous term's Independence and Democracy group.
Following the 2014 European parliament election, the EFD group was reconstituted as the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD or EFD2) group on 24 June 2014, with a significant changes to group composition, including the Five Star Movement of Italy, a total of 48 members. The EFDD group lost official status in October 2014 when the defection of the Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule meant its membership no longer met the required number of states for Parliamentary groups (at least seven different member states). On 20 October, EFD announced it had restored the requisite seven state diversity by recruiting Robert Iwaszkiewicz, one of four representatives of the far-right Polish party Congress of the New Right. In December 2014 UKIP co-founded the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, a European political party whose membership is composed of several member parties of the EFDD parliamentary group.
In the 2009–14 parliament, UKIP ranked 76th out of 76 for attendance, took part in 61% of votes, and had three of the six lowest attending MEPs, which led to criticism from other parties and ex-UKIP MEPs that low participation may damage British interests. Between July 2014 and May 2015, its 23 MEPs maintained their record as the least active, participating on average in only 62.29% of votes. In response to criticism of low participation by UKIP MEPs in the EU Parliament, Farage has said that "Our objective as MEPs is not to keep voting endlessly for more EU legislation and to take power away from Westminster."
Current members of the European Parliament
UKIP has 18 members in the European Parliament, with representatives in eleven of the twelve European Parliament constituencies in the UK. Twenty-four UKIP representatives were elected in the 2014 election, but six have since defected.
Source: The Independent, 27 May 2014
House of Commons
During the 2010–15 Parliament, two Conservative MPs defected to UKIP and were re-elected in subsequent by-elections. At the 2015 general election, UKIP retained one of these seats (Clacton) and received over 30% of the vote in Boston and Skegness, South Thanet, Heywood and Middleton, Thurrock and Rochester and Strood.
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won||Outcome|
0 / 650
0 / 650
0 / 646
0 / 650
1 / 650
0 / 650
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won||Rank|
0 / 87
3 / 87
12 / 78
13 / 72
24 / 73
National Assembly for Wales elections
|Year||Percentage of vote (constituency)||Percentage of vote (regional)||Seats won (constituency)||Seats won (regional)||Seats won (total)||Outcome|
|1999||0.0% (N/A)||0.0% (N/A)||
0 / 40
0 / 20
0 / 60
|2003||2.3% (19,795)||3.5% (29,427)||
0 / 40
0 / 20
0 / 60
|2007||1.8% (18,047)||4.0% (38,490)||
0 / 40
0 / 20
0 / 60
|2011||0.0% (N/A)||4.6% (43,756)||
0 / 40
0 / 20
0 / 60
|2016||12.5% (127,0385)||13.0% (132,138)||
0 / 40
7 / 20
7 / 60
Other political groups
In campaigning on emotive issues, UKIP has proved divisive. Popular stereotypes have framed it as a far right party, and portrayed its activists as "old white men" holding "offensive views". The party has faced vocal opposition from anti-fascist groups such as Hope not Hate, who have accused it of tapping into nationalist and xenophobic sentiment in its campaigns. Writing for The New York Times Magazine, Geoffrey Wheatcroft noted that there had been "a concerted campaign to brand UKIP as racist, an accusation that some of its own activists have done nothing to discourage." Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo highlighted that Farage had been "routinely ridiculed and dismissed", at best being portrayed as "a beer-swilling populist who wanted to drag Britain back to the 1950s" while at worst depicted as "a racist... would-be demagogue" who secretly wanted to overthrow the UK's liberal parliamentary democracy.
The British press have widely publicised various statements made by UKIP activists and candidates which have been regarded as racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted. Among the "countless examples" of UKIP representatives and supporters embarrassing the party have been an MEP who called for a ban on the construction of mosques and for all British Muslims to sign a code of conduct, a councillor who suggested that shops should be allowed to refuse service to women and homosexuals, and a candidate councillor who compared Islam to Nazism and told black comedian Lenny Henry to leave Britain after the latter called for greater ethnic diversity within the UK's creative industries. In 2015, a documentary called Meet the Ukippers filmed activists making racist statements; one stated "the only people I do have a problem with are negroes". For many years such individuals were internally tolerated within the party, although as part of Farage's push to professionalise the party a number of its members—such as MEP Godfrey Bloom—were expelled for making comments that brought UKIP into disrepute. In 2018, Jo Marney—who was then the girlfriend of the party leader Henry Bolton—was suspended from UKIP after it was revealed that she had sent texts stating that black Africans were "ugly". In these messages, she had criticised Meghan Markle for marrying into the British royal family, stating that Markle was "a dumb little commoner" and "a black American. Pushing their way to the top slowly. Next will be a Muslim PM and a black king."
For many years, mainstream political figures derided or demeaned the importance of UKIP, although this did little to obstruct its electoral advances. By 2014—at which point UKIP was securing significant electoral support in the European Parliamentary elections—the main parties began to take it more seriously and devoted more time to countering the electoral threat it posed to them, in turn drawing more journalistic attention to the party. This increased attention gave the party the "oxygen of publicity" which helped bring the party to the attention of previously inattentive voters. Many on Britain's centre-left have been reluctant to accept that UKIP was hindering public support for Labour, instead believing that they were primarily a problem for the Conservatives and would thus help produce a Labour victory. Labour found that their own campaign strategy of accusing UKIP of racism backfired, as rather than distancing UKIP supporters from the party it contributed to the perception that Labour failed to understand widespread concerns regarding immigration. A December 2014 poll by ComRes found that voters saw UKIP as closer to the centre-ground of politics than the Conservatives.
Media and academia
In a May 2014 YouGov survey, 47% considered the media to be biased against UKIP, which was double the percentage who deemed the media biased against any other party. The BBC received almost 1,200 complaints about its coverage of the 2014 European and local elections; 149 claimed that the BBC were biased against UKIP, while the rest claimed that it gave disproportionate attention to the party. The BBC defended its coverage. Farage accused the BBC of a "liberal bias", particularly on issues of immigration, the EU, and climate change.
David Deacon and Dominic Wring's examination of press coverage of UKIP during their 2014 campaign demonstrated that of the elite newspapers, the pro-EU titles The Guardian and The Observer gave the most coverage to perceived racist and intolerant aspects of the party, while the Eurosceptic titles The Times and The Sunday Times instead focused on questioning the propriety and integrity of UKIP representatives. Among the populist tabloids, The Sun/Sun on Sunday and the Daily Mirror/Sunday Mirror were found to contain the most negative coverage of UKIP, while the Daily Express and Sunday Express—owned by UKIP donor Richard Desmond—gave significantly lower coverage to the gaffes and prejudices of UKIP representatives. Deacon and Wring noted that the majority of those right-wing newspapers that share UKIP's views on immigration also share the perspective of more liberal newspapers that many of UKIP's interventions are racist. This right-wing press opposition to UKIP may result from the allegiance that these newspapers have to the Conservatives, and thus perceive UKIP as an electoral threat.
Academic research has been carried out into UKIP; as of 2016, it was noted that most of this had focused on examining the party's electoral support base, its consequences for other parties, and the possibilities and prospects of a referendum on continued EU membership, with little having focused on an examination of the party's policies. Two currents have emerged among those seeking to interpret UKIP: the first, and generally older, current views them as a manifestation of Britain's strong Eurosceptic movement, while the second seeks to explain their position in the UK parliamentary system while drawing upon the comparative literature on right-wing populist parties elsewhere in Europe.
- Diane James won the September 2016 leadership election but resigned 18 days later, prior to taking office. As the relevant paperwork required by the Electoral Commission was not completed before her resignation, legally Farage remained the leader of UKIP during James's tenure. Farage continued to act as interim leader of UKIP until the November 2016 election.
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