As Bournemouth wept with rain and seasonal despair, the UKIP conference basked under the glowing warmth of optimism. The members emerged into the streets afterwards, happy and content, and eager to announce that the conference was ‘the best yet’ – a message echoed by the political foot-soldiers and leaders alike.
The times are truly changing for this small party: It has branched out spectacularly and is very keen to announce that its image as a one-policy party is now dead and buried under the fresh and alternative policies that mark UKIP so far apart from the practically identical three major parties.
Their leader, Nigel Farage, has used new policies to dig himself and his party in well for the 2009 European elections. What is truly alluring, however, is UKIP’s noticeable distance from the draconian wishes of the other parties – from energy to detention without trial.
UKIP has emerged as the only major libertarian party in the current lie of the land. Many of their policies reflect this mantra, such as the decision made at the conference not to take a dogmatic stance for or against the case for human-caused global warming – the decision is instead to be left to the individual.
So if the mood of the audience can reflect the mood of the people, UKIP looks to be on its way up. They recently celebrated the defection of Dr Bob Spink – MP for Castle Point in Essex – from the Conservative party; UKIP’s first MP. This achievement will add to the energy leading up to the European elections next year. After the very noticeable public dissatisfaction with the government’s referendum charade, these are elections that UKIP should, and most probably will, be able to cash in on spectacularly. The EU has become perceived as being more and more dangerous over the last few years – from the threat of a continental police force to the justice system that is forecast to destroy the concept of the sovereign state.
Although Britain is not a nationalistic country on an American scale, there remains a patriotic backbone to the British people. Fishermen rue the loss of their livelihoods, stolen by EU policies; the European weights and measures are implemented, the street traders arrested for rebelliously refusing to conform; 75% of our laws now come from Brussels; And membership of the EU costs Britain 139 million pounds each day – UKIP alone stands strong against these tides of insanity.
The conference speakers all very excitedly heralded the ‘young aspect’ of UKIP. In fact, so did the aging conference audience. The Chairman, leader, and the Young Independence branch were all hoisted aloft as a shining trophy of youth. This is probably a very welcome move for UKIP – they have unwillingly obtained an image of a disgruntled pensioners’ party at times.
As you look around at the younger UKIP members, many of whom have recently left school or university, you can’t help but suspect they feel a little like Hansel and Gretel at times – lured in, fattened up, and watched hungrily by their eager captors.
But UKIP may have actually struck gold. The youth aspect is immensely important as the vote-eligible youth are often filled with a political zeal and solitarily represent a potentially huge share of the voters.
There are, however, a few reservations.
One statement released by UKIP announced, that if it were in power, immigration would be frozen for five years to deal with the backlog. This is not mentioned at all in the 2005 manifesto, and as yet, a paper has not been published on immigration for the 2008 manifesto. Furthermore, there was no mention at the conference of how the problem of immigration was to be tackled.
A five-year freeze seems like unmanageable and impractical solution, and raises some serious questions: What of the Iraqi translators who risked their own lives and those of their families in order to help their country and the coalition? What of the brave Ghurkhas? Does this include asylum? Mehdi Kazemi was an Iranian homosexual student whose partner had been murdered back in Iran by the state. What of him?
One does fear that, as the economy worsens, a real resentment against immigrants will manifest itself and could actually benefit UKIP.
All in all, this is a very exciting time for UKIP. They stand for the most part in a truly unique position: The increasing anti-European sentiment, the worsening economy, the appointment of their first Commons’ MP, the fast-growing size of Young Independence (the youth movement), and their position as the only party promising libertarian, free market politics. In the following year the European elections will be crucial to UKIP’s future – the impressive change they have undergone in the last decade gives them a political appeal to a diverse range of voters. They are a small party that has shrugged free the crippling divisions noticeable in the larger, more commercial parties – they represent the collective views of a large percentage of voters; it all depends upon how astutely they can capitalise on the current political climate.