The anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party has accomplished the stunning feat of placing first in Britain’s election for the European Parliament. Infamously derided by Conservative prime minister David Cameron as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists, mostly,” UKIP now threatens Cameron’s reelection this year and cooler Tory heads are scrambling to reach some accommodation with UKIP so that Labor doesn’t return to power solely on the basis of a divided anti-EU electorate. But Labor saw itself lose support to UKIP, as its “chablis socialism” alienated many of the party’s core blue-collar, nationalist voters.
The Daily Telegraph has prepared an excellent history of the upstart UKIP’s origins, challenges, and road to this week’s triumph.
Here is an excerpt:
The climate of the time, after the financial crisis and expenses saga, also favoured an insurgent force. Even though Ukip has been hit by assorted expenses scandals of its own, criticism simply seemed to bounce off, so desperately did many voters want to kick the other parties. Capitalising on concerns about immigration, Mr Farage began a steady climb in the polls, hoovering up votes from Tory — and now Labour — supporters who hated the mainstream parties, Westminster, the EU or a combination of all three.
As well as voters, activists and former Tory donors have been signing up, too. The party now has more than 38,000 members. And no matter what you think of Ukip, going from a tiny band of outlaw revolutionaries 20 years ago to today’s heights stands as quite an achievement.