The Liberal Democrat Party’s decision to ally themselves with the Conservatives in 2010, and their subsequent betrayal of almost every belief they campaigned for, left a vacuum for a new third party to fill. UKIP, under the charismatic leadership of Nigel Farage, gladly stepped forward to take this mantle. Despite the undeniable charm of Farage, UKIP has come under a barrage of fire for comments minor members make; this week saw a UKIP Councillor claim that the recent flooding was some form of divine retribution for this government’s advocacy of homosexual marriage legislation.
Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom has slammed women who don’t clean the back of their fridge as ‘sluts.’ He has also claimed that immigrants should go back to ‘bongo bongo land,’ and attacked a Channel 4 presenter for scrutinising the lack of non-white people in UKIP’s Conference papers. Bloom rightly resigned following this scandal, but the spectre remains an ominous one which continues to haunt UKIP’s campaign to be seen as a respectable party. Clearly UKIP’s respectable front is hiding a far more endemic problem.
In the 1990’s the Conservative Party almost ripped itself into two following a viscous cycle of infighting between Euro-sceptic members and Pro-Euro members. This debate has been successfully pushed to a back burner within the party, allowing a sense of unity which aided to their 2010 quasi-victory. However, this contentious issue has allowed UKIP to capitalise on voter disillusionment over the EU; tabloid headlines charging the EU with jeopardising British sovereignty has aided to UKIP’s exponential growth. The rise of UKIP has been enabled by Farage’s media friendly image; frequent visits on Have I Got News For You, as well as internet clips featuring what has become his catchphrase, ‘baffling,’ have promulgated his image to the masses, granting him an authority with which to speak. This authority transcends Farage, giving UKIP Party members greater publicity, and along with this, greater media scrutiny.
…this contentious issue has allowed UKIP to capitalise on voter disillusionment…
People do not whole heartedly support UKIP’s agenda; the party preaches what they know will equate to votes by attacking immigration and the perception of the EU’s imposition on Britain. UKIP allow people to vote for a party reminiscent of elements of the Conservative Party while maintaining an apathetic political stance; UKIP are a protest vote, but they are a protest vote which is being legitimised in the political arena as the Tory Party fear they will lose votes to UKIP. Beneath Farage’s fictitious facade lies a party rife with racism, sexism and bigotry. The dire state of the political system has led to a generation who feel betrayed and disillusioned with the current system, looking for someone to listen to their voices of apathy. Farage lends an ear to them, and as such his party benefits phenomenally.
Farage has done an excellent job of sweeping this bigotry under the rug. Legitimate political parties do not have to constantly suspend members for making bigoted comments; UKIP has had to do so on numerous occasions because it is a motley crew of disillusioned Conservatives, pragmatic racists, Euro-sceptics, and political opportunists. The current political system has left a generation politically scarred, but expressing disdain for this should not take the form of abhorrently inappropriate, tabloid grabbing, media opportunists.