With 2014 almost over, the success of UKIP this past year is looked at whilst the party's challenges in 2015 are examined.
2014 has certainly been UKIP’s best so far. The party are on the up. UKIP have - in the polls - become the UK’s third party, having consistently outpolled the Liberal Democrats.
UKIP’s biggest victory came this year when the party won the European Parliament elections in the United Kingdom. The party got almost 27% of the vote and 24 seats. Nigel Farage claimed his party would create an earthquake and their win certainly cause one.
Additionally, the party gained its first and second MPs in the latter half of the year. Carswell and Reckless won back their seats under the UKIP banner, having defected from the Conservatives.
The party has achieved so much this year and next year could be even better. Nigel Farage aims to hold the balance of power next May.
Speaking to the BBC after Douglas Carswell's victory, the party leader said:
"We've got a chance here in a general election next year that is likely to be very tight, in an election in which no one party is likely to have a majority. If UKIP can keep this momentum going, we could find ourselves next May in a position where we hold the balance of power."
2015 will be a pivotal year for UKIP - and for the British political system. UKIP could gain a decent handful of seats, but it is hard to determine how many due to the UK’s first past the post system and the death of uniform swing.
If UKIP do well and enter into some sort of agreement with Labour or the Conservatives then a referendum on EU membership could take place soon after the general election. The Conservatives have pledged a referendum by the end of 2017 if they win in 2015, but if a deal gets done with UKIP the referendum could could be brought forwards.
UKIP’s share of the vote will increase next May - compared to their 2010 performance - but if their seat count fails to increase then 2015 may be less of a success than many hope. However, 2015 could set them up for 2020 or perhaps earlier - if a second election is called the event of a failed coalition. The party could get a second chance.
The party’s main challenge will be to maximise its support and gain seats. Only then will it be able to influence Westminster. If resources are spread well and certain seats are concentrated on then their could be a decent handful of UKIP MPs entering parliament next May.
After that the next challenge for the party will come with trying to secure a referendum on the EU. Such a deal will be more likely with the Conservatives gaining the most seats, but a deal could be done with Labour too.
Under a more proportional electoral system UKIP would likely hold some balance of power, but under first past the post they have a bigger task in getting into parliament. UKIP’s 2015 will be good in the sense that their share of the vote is going to go up in May. A fairly extraordinary set of circumstances would have to happen for it to not. But whether or not they can transform those votes into seats is yet to be seen.
Could UKIP end up holding the balance of power next May? How many MPs will the party return to Westminster - if any?