When Professor Alan Sked founded the United Kingdom Independence Party 21 years ago he hadn’t the foggiest that his quiet, Eurosceptic outfit would be one day be commandeered by an unlikely fusion of disgruntled Tories and disillusioned non-voters. But his ‘Frankenstein’s Monster‘ is as elusive as the nature of fiction itself.
In 30 or 40 years historians will re-examine the early-21st Century political landscape with a child-like fascination, wondering where it all went wrong. Papers will be written. Memoirs will be dissected. Philosophers will gather in living rooms, sipping Cointreau, postulating as to how one former banker changed the unchangeable course of democracy.
Ukip is not a political party, in any traditional sense, but an enigmatic collection of ideas, bugbears and passions. They don’t need to buy public support with unfunded tax cuts. Its candidates do not make promises that they cannot keep; the voters have realised they can never deliver. If they do, the voters forgive them before the pledges are made.
Ukip is a state of mind. The purple banners unite the public against politicians, bankers, energy companies, Brussels, foreigners, toffs. Policies come and go like the seasons. Nigel Farage holds true conservative values that David Cameron can’t. He stands up for the working man in the way that Ed Miliband won’t. He cries in protest against the power-driven monster that Nick Clegg has become.
It represents the freedoms once taken for granted – the self-expression stamped out by New Labour’s PC brigade. It fights for withdrawal from a tyrannical European super state that has infiltrated the fabric of British life – a gargantuan beast that will not stop until it governs every aspect of society like an overbearing aunt.
Non-voters, meanwhile, the disillusioned and the under-represented, are given the platform from which they can scream with disgust at the cohort of sleazy Westminster bureaucrats, the career politicians, the scum, filling their pockets at the public’s expense. This is the platform from which they will finally be heard.
The Conservative Party sees Ukip as a threat to its power. Divided and on the brink of defeat, the far-right fringe has been driven mad whilst the centre-right sighs with regret. The Labour Party, unable to connect with the ordinary hardworking taxpaying voter, has been humbled. Ukip is the party that has achieved what they no longer can.
First past the post is favoured because it produces strong, stable majorities time after time. With the prospect of two consecutive hung parliaments, how long can that last? Now everybody’s got a shot. Even the Greens.
Ukip is everything. Ukip is nothing. To its leaders, it will claw back the power they crave. To its voters, it will be put an end to the status quo – how ever it manifests. It is democracy’s greatest failure. It is democracy’s greatest success. Farage will bring the establishment to its knees – and once the battle is fought he may have only five or six seats to show for it, donning a wry grin, and a pint.