UKIP's influence on Westminster is not diminishing. UKIP's unique outlook on politics is causing more than just a stir.
“We have seen UKIP before!” This is the standard line from the Westminster political elite. They try to reassure us that the new “party of protest” will disappear just as soon as it appeared. They are wrong. UKIP is not the same as the other small insurgents whom have tried to break the two party duel play in British politics. UKIP is unique. It is unique because Mr Farage has no ambitions for UKIP itself: UKIP is a mere vehicle to enact a systemic “earthquake” on the right of British politics by creating a new right-wing realignment.
In a very revealing interview with the Daily Mail Farage explained his ambition was not to eventually see a UKIP government, as other fringe parties delude themselves with. Instead he wishes to “destroy the Conservative” party and split this once great coalition of ideologies in two.
Whilst media coverage of the UKIP phenomenon has been extensive, little attention has been given to UKIP’s aims and how British politics would look if they were achieved. Farage takes his inspiration from Canada, where the small right-wing Reform party grew rapidly at the expense of the established Conservatives, who many thought had lost touch with traditional conservative values. Interestingly, the effective destruction of the Conservative party in Westminster could revive their junior coalition partners and create a new potent liberal faction in Westminster.
The Modern British Conservative party has always been home to liberals as well as traditional true blue conservatives. The initial intake took place in 1886 over objections to Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone’s ambitions for home rule for Ireland. Then again in the 1920s as Churchill and others crossed the floor, as the Labour party displaced the Liberals as the second largest party. This grand coalition of liberal and conservative thought is unique to the British Conservative party and has helped make it the most successful party of the 20th century. However, Farage and the coalition is driving a wedge between these two wings.
Tory backbenchers are frustrated that their classical liberal leadership has more in common on Europe, immigration and gay marriage with their liberal colleagues in the Liberal Democrats, than with them or their traditional true blue supports. The coalition has revealed the profound weakness in the Conservative party by overtly highlighting its fault lines. How unfortunate it is then, that just as traditional conservatives are losing faith in their metropolitan leadership, that Farage appears; speaking the words many Tories dream they could hear from their own leader.
The result? An end in the conservative-liberal coalition. Mr Farage hopes for a split in the Tory party, and a new UKIP-blue conservative faction. This would see Farage return to the party that he left in disgust in the 80s and the birth of a more traditional socially conservative party. The success or failure of this new party is to me in no doubt. No party in British politics has ever been able to govern in the 21st century without breaking out of their ideological base. By driving the new Tory faction to the right, he drives them away from electability. I would remind readers that, despite the press coverage UKIP receives, the party remains on just 10% in the polls, lost the Newark by-election and won just 27% of the vote on a 35 % turnout in the Euro elections. When given a say in a General Election the majority will reject the radicalism of UKIP. Therefore Farage’s plan leads his right-wing faction to oblivion.
However, what of those liberals who Farage sees as having no place in a true conservative party? What of Ken Clarke, Cameron, and the hundreds of thousands of Tory voters who demand free market economics but not the socially regressive policies espoused by UKIP? Where will they go?
Again the coalition seems to have facilitated a solution. The alliance with the Tories has sent Social Democrats exiting the Lib Dems on mass. The resulting rump remains closer to the free market liberals in the German FDP than the SDP-liberal Alliance of the 70s. With this backdrop the truth is that there remains very little difference between the liberals in the Lib Dems, who espouse the virtues of the free market ,yet with a robust social conscience, and the socially progressive liberals in the Tory party. The result could be the creation of a new liberal faction; binding liberals from across all 3 major parties under one umbrella: The National Liberal Party.
Ironically the closer Farage gets to his aims, the more likely he is to facilitate a Liberal recovery. In truth Farage’s dream of returning the Conservative party to its 1970s state is doomed to failure. If he succeeds, the resulting party will be pushed out of mainstream politics, unable to win the support of the liberal majority. If he fails, then the informal liberal-conservative coalition will be preserved and the likes of the Cameron and Ken Clarke will continue to have a home in the modern Tory Party.