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The resistible rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party

ukip-logo UKIP have done very well in the mostly English county council elections,  Although these are nominally to elect people to be in charge of running services in the counties, many voters use them as a means to deliver a verdict on national policy, and the media certainly interpret them that way.  UKIP have won many council seats and have built up a big share of the vote.  Several facts stand out.  This is a typical mid-term protest vote, with two years left to run for the UK’s Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition.  Disillusioned voters would previously have shunned the Tories in favour of the Lib-Dems or Labour, whereas this time many of them went UKIP.  The Lib-Dems are in government, so do not qualify as much for the anti-government protest vote, while Labour should be very concerned that they are failing to attract large numbers of disillusioned and impatient voters.

The Tories can shrug it off only if they ensure that this result is not repeated at the General Election in 2015.  The only way to do that is to shoot the UKIP fox and play the euroskeptic card themselves.  Cameron has already made a great stride in that direction by promising to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, with a referendum to decide if the UK is to remain in the EU on that new basis.  He showed himself to be a consummate politician in the days after the 2010 election when the coalition was formed.  The odds must be high now that he will neutralize the UKIP threat by standing up more stridently against the torrent of often nonsensical rules that flows from Brussels.  This in turn will put strain on the UK’s relations with its EU partners, and especially with the EU bureaucracy.  At the end of this road is the likelihood that the UK will vote in a referendum to terminate its membership and withdraw from the EU.  This week’s election results have made that possibility a great deal more likely to happen.  And that will, despite what they say, make UKIP unnecessary.

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