What next for UKIP and Nigel Farage ?

Nigel Farage MEP speaking

The general election is fast approaching, but what are realistic ambitions for Nigel Farage and his party ?

After success in the recent European and local elections, UKIP is on a charge and ready to capitalise on their new found popularity. With the general election only eleven months away, Farage is planning his full on assault on Westminster, but what are his real objectives ?

Farage and his party are after two main things: A referendum on EU membership, and an open discussion about the UK’s immigration policy. Without having won a single seat in the House of Commons, they are frighteningly close to achieving both of these aims.

UKIP is unique in the sense that it is capable of attracting two completely different types of voter. On one hand you have the disgruntled working-class Labour supporter who is struggling to find employment due to the influx of eastern European immigrants. On the other, you have the euro-sceptic Tory who can’t stand the government’s close relationship with Brussels, and thinks that the Conservatives aren’t Conservative enough.

What both of these voters have in common, however, is that they see UKIP as a protest vote, the party to turn to because they are simply fed up of the establishment. This ability to chip away at the support of both the Labour and Conservative core vote could be significant come the general election, but not significant enough for UKIP to be a force post 2015.

The chances are that UKIP will not get many, if any, seats in May. Although they are likely to capture a sizable share of the vote, their support is likely to be dispersed throughout the country and not concentrated enough to have any real impact on Westminster. A basically single-issue party like UKIP has never been able to achieve anything more than increased publicity for their cause, and Farage is more than aware of this. So what is his game plan, and what does he really want to achieve in 2015 ?

Farage's underlying motive is - and has always been -  to attempt to re-position the Conservative party and get the issue of Europe and immigration to the top of the agenda. Tory party leader David Cameron promising an EU referendum, and bolstering his anti-immigration stance is exactly what Farage wants.

If UKIP does manage to pick up a few seats in 2015 (although I stress this is extremely unlikely), Farage has openly admitted he would be open to working with Cameron if the Conservatives guarantee a referendum on EU membership. So, will UKIP merge and become a part of the Conservative party ? Highly unlikely. But what is possible, is that they remain affiliated with the Tories as a group of outspoken independent backbenchers. If they don’t get any seats (the more probable outcome), Farage will leverage UKIP’s increasing share of the national vote as a cry to finally have the referendum on Europe he is so desperately after.

Farage’s dream of an open debate on immigration has been achieved, and all that remains on his political agenda now is to have his beloved EU membership referendum. Post 2015, UKIP’s significance is likely to fall, especially if they manage to get the referendum soon after the election. Then it would be a case of a job well done, Mr Farage. And time for you and UKIP to ride off into the sunset!