UKIP was founded in 1993, but only became a serious political contender in the last few years. With questions surrounding the party's future following a dismal election performance, here are 7 key moments from its history.
1. Formation in 1993
UKIP was founded in 1993 by the Eurosceptic academic Alan Sked. The moment was particularly significant because it took just over two decades for this new party to have a massive impact on British politics. Many new political movements in Britain appear and then die in a short space of time without making a mark.
UKIP is no longer a prominent political force, but it has made significant waves in its first twenty-four years.
2. 1999 European elections
The irony of UKIP’s success is that it is the European elections that have brought the party to prominence thanks to the PR element of voting for the European parliament. In the 1999 European elections, UKIP won its first three seats. The results gave UKIP a platform in British politics, allowing them to grow and grow right up until the 2016 referendum.
There is no denying that the 1999 European elections were a turning-point in UKIP’s brief history.
3. Nigel Farage takes over the party (2006)
In 2006, Nigel Farage became leader of the party, winning with 44% of the membership’s vote. There is no denying that his leadership has been integral to UKIP’s success so it is difficult to imagine how the party’s fortunes would have played out if another candidate had won the vote. Britain’s anti-EU sentiment would still have existed, but would another leader have been able to cultivate it in the way that Nigel Farage did?
4. Clacton by-election
In late 2014, Douglas Carswell defected from the Conservatives to join the growing purple movement. As a matter of principle, instead of switching parties straight away, he called a by-election and stood as the UKIP candidate.
He won the vote and became UKIP’s first elected MP. It was seen as a significant turning point in British politics at the time.
5. Rochester by-election
Soon after Carswell’s by-election, another Tory MP made the switch. Following in Carswell’s footsteps, Mark Reckless defected, held a by-election, and won under the UKIP banner. This vote – and Carswell’s showed that UKIP were an electoral force to be reckoned with.
6. 2015 general election
In the 2015 general election, UKIP won almost 13% of the vote, a staggering triumph for a party on the fringes of British politics. Although UKIP got just one MP, Douglas Carswell, they did supplant the Liberal Democrats as Britain’s third largest party in terms of vote-share.
7. 2016 EU referendum
UKIP was founded with the ultimate goal of taking Britain out of the European Union. In June 2016, the party achieved this feat. The growing strength of the party surely pushed David Cameron into calling the vote, showing just how influential UKIP was.
But victory in securing a Brexit vote was bitter-sweet for the party. They may have won the ultimate political “war”, but in terms of the party’s own battle, the vote for Brexit damaged the party’s electability. After all, with Brexit on its way to being complete, what is the point in UKIP any more?