The UKIP Challenge


By Barry Edwards

The UKIP Challenge

The challenge from the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has started with the convincing win by Douglas Carswell in the Clacton-on-Sea by-election created by his resignation from the Conservative Party. UKIP also nearly won the other by-election held at Heywood and Middleton just losing to Labour by 617 votes. This is one of the biggest changes in the political scene for many years making the forthcoming general election in May a totally open contest since it is very likely that neither of the two main parties will achieve an overall majority.

This means that the smaller parties which include the Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationals, Democratic Unionists (Northern Ireland) and UKIP will decide the makeup of the next government in the UK. The Liberals are likely to lose a good proportion of their 56 seats they currently hold, the Scottish Nationals could take about 20 seats from labour in the general election to add to their current 6 they already have in the Westminster parliament. The Democratic Unionists hold 8 seats at Westminster and UKIP could gain anything from 10 to 25 seats if their current success is repeated at the general election.

Therefore, the possible result of the general election could see the smaller parties holding the following estimated number of seats; Liberal Democrats 30-35, Scottish Nationals around 25-30, Democratic Unionists 10 and UKIP 15-25. If these numbers are anywhere near the actual result; the UK structure of parliament will begin to look similar to many European countries where coalitions have been in power for many years. The days of one party having an overall majority sufficient to create an effective government seem to be over for the foreseeable future.

The big question is whether this will make any difference to the way government functions since the UK now has some experience of a coalition lasting the full term which has been a surprise to many politicians. If the estimates above are too generous to the Liberals, then the outcome of the general election could bring in a very different coalition with possibly one of the smaller parties creating a coalition to create a small majority with agreements with others on various policies.

The Scottish referendum has brought the subject of devolution onto the mainstream political agenda and all parties have accepted, large and small, that a form of decentralisation of government will take place. The regions of the UK are likely to receive powers and funding they have not had for many years starting the establishment of diverse approaches specific to their particular skills and abilities. The political scene at Westminster will be changed from micro management of the economy for the whole nation to a much more devolved arrangement.

The awareness by the people that they do make a difference to how government functions will only encourage more involvement regionally and locally where people actually live. This should mean that there will be opportunities for people to insist that the allocation of funds is directed at matters that really affect their lives. That will be an enormous change to how government operates and is administered creating a direct link between people and power that has not existed for some time. At the moment, many people do not vote because they do not believe their vote will not make any difference, whereas if they are deciding on matters directly related to their own area, they will bother to get involved; if they don’t, they cannot blame anyone else.

People now understand that there is a big change occurring encouraging discussion and interest in politics again. The recent elections, especially the Scottish referendum, have forced a rethink of government and how it works in response to active participation by people that has not been seen for a long time. The technological revolution has left politics behind in many ways and this new eagerness by the people may well bring the Internet into play to provide the platform for discussion and opinion. It could be the quick way to get the real views of people creating a new medium to make policies with a clear representation by the electorate on matters of all kinds.

It would allow ordinary people to put forward ideas and be actively involved in policy making stimulating many more people to participate in improving the supervision of the economy and public services making its implementation much more efficient. The potential to make a real difference to the everyday things that happen to people is within the grasp of the nation providing we all continue to seek better management and organisation by those elected to make it happen.

That’s all for this week, more observations next week.