The political establishment in Britain was rocked last week as the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) — a political upstart for conservatives across the pond who would likely agree with many of the Tea Party’s positions — cleaned up at local elections.
The New York Times reported Friday:
The populist U.K. Independence Party is on course to make sweeping gains in local elections in Britain, according to early results on Friday, delivering a blow to its established rivals and confirming its role as an emerging political force.
The two parties that govern Britain in a coalition, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, suffered a battering as the first results were announced from Thursday’s voting. The opposition Labour Party made gains, but they appeared less substantial than its supporters had hoped. After results from 59 councils had been declared, Labour had gained 94 seats, and the U.K. Independence Party had gained 86 seats.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage described the victories in local council elections as the beginnings of the U.K.’s “biggest political earthquake in 100 years.” While UKIP doesn’t have any members in parliament, the local elections have sown the seeds for the once marginalized party to become a political force to be reckoned with. Most importantly, the new seats will give UKIP the political leverage to win parliamentary elections set to take place next year.
With all of the political problems going on in the U.S. today, you may be asking why anything political in the U.K. should matter to U.S. conservatives.
The democratic, libertarian UKIP has existed since 1993, though—much like anything bearing libertarian semblance in the United States— has historically been ridiculed and marginalized in tag-team fashion by opposing factions of the U.K. political establishment. In recent years, the party has successfully grown its ranks thanks in large part to populist support of its mission to withdraw the nation from the European Union and increase immigration controls.
Farage, a founding member of the party, has headed UKIP since being elected leader in 2006 and again in 2010. Under his leadership, the Party has gained considerable ground in U.K. politics.
In his official bio on the UKIP website, Farage is described—in part—thusly:
A firm believer in Independence for the United Kingdom he is a proponent of free speech and has faced considerable hostility from his political opponents for speaking out in favour of free and fair referendums on the transfer of power from elected politicians to the EU.
In his very rare spare time he likes fishing, country sports and traditional English pubs. However, most of his time is spent travelling around the country and other countries in the EU telling the truth about the European Union.
In other words, Farage is an average guy. He likes beer, fishing and freedom. And, based on the results of the most recent round of elections, his countrymen have noticed.
Success also draws attention from the political establishment, which—as is the case in most countries—isn’t comprised of average people in the U.K. But the power structure, unable to connect with the average masses most anywhere, have created an effective farce to curry favor with voters. That is, find ways to label the most patriotic, understanding and tolerant citizens of any nation as the most unpatriotic, uneducated and anti-diversity class of people around.
Just as the U.S. Libertarian Party and libertarian-leaning Republicans have been accused of being, at least, insensitive to the poor and, at worst, racist, UKIP has been maligned by the political establishment.
Take, for instance, this parody map published in the U.K. version of Huffington Post:
If that looks familiar, it’s because conservatives in the U.S. have been smeared similarly on numerous occasions by the Nation’s left.
The criticisms in both cases, however, don’t come exclusively from the left.
Here’s how establishment Prime Minister David Cameron, who describes himself as a “liberal conservative” described Farage and his UKIP compatriots back in 2006, “Ukip is sort of a bunch of … fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists mostly.”
Similarly in the U.S., Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), disagreeing with the foreign policy opinions of libertarian-leaning Republicans like Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.), proclaimed last year, “They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else. But I also think that when, you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”
It’s obvious to the majority of citizens that the status quo isn’t working in politics—therefore, voters are supporting unconventional politicians. On both sides of the pond, those new-elects are derided as racists, fruitcakes and wackos.
But there remains a difference in the political systems of the U.S. and U.K. that could, within a decade, determine which nation makes the biggest strides in the name of liberty: the importance of local elections.
The U.K.’s recent charge toward conservatism ensures that UKIP will have a chance in upcoming Parliamentary—similar to U.S. Congressional—elections. But the seats to which many of the UKIP politicians have been elected are much lower-key battlegrounds than the average U.S. Congressional elections.
Meanwhile, voters in the U.S. continue to support incumbent candidates in Congressional primaries even at a time when public polling registers Congressional approval at all-time lows.
If Americans are going to change the Nation’s two-party system, patience will be important. But by electing candidates who eschew the political establishment at the local and State levels, voters can make it easier to enact change in the U.S.’s national political system with time.