History has been made, but will UKIP make a difference?

Nigel Farage with UKIP

With just one MP rather than the eighty or so they would have gotten under a proportional system, can Nigel Farage's party make a difference?

Eighteen days before the election I wrote an article asking the question of whether or not UKIP would be able to make a difference in the new parliament in the circumstances in which they got only a couple of MPs. The party was weakened by the first-past-the-post system which favours smaller parties. In the end UKIP only got one MP, former Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, so their influence in making a difference in parliament is rather small.

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Despite this, even when they had no MPs the party did have influence. They shaped some of the political debate, especially on immigration and resulted in the Conservatives promising an in/out referendum - a referendum which is set to take place within the next two and a half years. So even without representation they made an impact.

But now, in the short term, it looks unlikely that they will make a big difference in parliament. UKIP will fight for an out vote, alongside other forces advocating an out vote but their influence in parliament itself will be small.

Then again, in the long term it looks as if things will be different. UKIP’s 13% of the vote, but only one seat, highlights the need for reform to the electoral system. Following the election UKIP united with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens in order to make the case for electoral reform. A petition was handed into Downing Street - making the case for change.

History was made on May 7th when almost four million people voted UKIP and it did not make a difference in terms of seats for the party. But in the long term, if the UK ever adopts a fairer system history will look back and see that the UKIP vote of 2015 did make a difference.

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