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Electoral Geography in Great Britain – The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

The party was founded in 1983 but had no impact until the European elections of 1999, when they won three seats. It had better results in European elections than in Westminster elections and only received 3% in the 2010 general election.

The increased attention to immigration and Europe, the general dissatisfaction with traditional politics and the success of Nigel Farage in the media led to a major change in support and the party began to register in the opinion polls from April 2012 with around 8% of the vote.

Another step up in the polls to nearer 10% and level with the Liberal Democrats came at the beginning of 2013 and UKIP polled higher than the Conservatives in the Eastleigh by-election of February 2013.

This provided the publicity that helped the party to further successes in the County Council elections in the May when it gained seats particularly in East Anglia and in Kent and, in local and national by-elections in economically depressed towns in Northern England. After this it was reaching around 15% in opinion polls.

The 2014 European Parliament Elections

UKIP had unprecedented success in the 2014 European Elections. For the first time in modern political history neither the Labour nor Conservative parties won a national election. Twenty years earlier it had won just 1% of the vote but in 2014 they received 27% or 4,376,635 votes. This gave UKIP 24 Members of the European Parliament ( +11) ahead of 20 Labour and 19 Conservative. It sent a shock across the political spectrum and put great pressure on particularly the Conservative Party who feared that their vote in the 2015 General Election would also go to UKIP.

The Conservative Party’s election pledge for an In/Out Referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU can largely be attributed to the success/pressure from UKIP as it is evident that the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, did not want to leave the EU and believed that voters in the UK would share his opinion. The attempt by Cameron to gain a re-negotiated settlement with EU leaders only served to give UKIP further fuel in their campaign as promises during the election did not materialise.

UK General Elections

The first-past-the-post system has not served UKIP well with many second places. In 2010 Nigel Farage came third in the seat of Buckingham, held by Speaker John Bercow, and escaped injury when his promotional plane crashed. Farage came second in the 2015 election standing in his home seat of South Thanet, Kent.

The only Member of Parliament for UKIP was Douglass Carswell who has served the constituency of Clacton since 2014. Although defecting to the Conservatives he triggered a by-election and was re-elected by voters rather than just crossing the floor and waiting for the 2015 General Election (he was also re-elected for UKIP then).

In March 2017 Mr Carswell resigned from UKIP to become an Independent saying that they had finished the job and the UK was leaving the European Union. Nigel Farage responded with a damming tweet saying in effect good riddance and Mr Carswell hadn’t been committed to UKIP in the first place.

Another Conservative MP, Mark Reckless, also defected to UKIP but he lost his seat in 2015 and is now a member of the Welsh Assembly for UKIP following the 2016 national elections. He has since lost his seat

Leadership and Party Struggles

The organisation of UKIP has been turbulent over the years. After Nigel Farage came leader Paul Nuttall, who lost the Stoke Central by-election for UKIP in 2017.

Until 2018,  Nigel Farage was the dominant figure but there have been many resignations of leaders, including Diane James in 2016 who served for just 18 days.

Creation of The Brexit Party

In 2019 many of those who had been associated with UKIP left to form a new party The Brexit Party.  Although there had been rifts for years donors such as Arron Banks and Nigel Farage, the face of UKIP left to start a new party. They felt the party had gone too far to the right wing especially through  association with controversial campaigner Tommy Robinson.

The Brexit Party went on to have huge success in the 2019 European Elections. They won nine of the twelve regions of the UK claiming 29 of the 72 seats up for grabs in the European Parliament.  By comparison, the UKIP party vote collapsed.