UK Independence Party

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UK Independence Party
Abbreviation UKIP
Leader Paul Nuttall
Deputy Leader Peter Whittle
Chairman Paul Oakden
Founded 3 September 1993[1]
Preceded by Anti-Federalist League
Headquarters Lexdrum House
Newton Abbot, Devon
Youth wing Young Independence
Membership  (May 2015) Increase 47,000[2]
Ideology Euroscepticism[3][4]
Right-wing populism[5]
Economic liberalism[4]
British unionism[6]
Political position Right-wing[7]
European affiliation Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe
European Parliament group Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy
Colours          Purple, yellow
House of Commons
0 / 650
House of Lords
3 / 802
European Parliament
20 / 73
Local government[8]
397 / 20,565
Northern Ireland Assembly
0 / 90
Politics of United Kingdom
Political parties

The UK Independence Party (UKIP /ˈjuːkɪp/) is a Eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party in the United Kingdom. Headquartered in Newton Abbot, Devon, its leader is Paul Nuttall. UKIP has three representatives in the House of Lords and twenty Members of the European Parliament, making it jointly the largest UK party in the European Parliament. It has 371 councillors in UK local government and five Assembly members (AMs) in the National Assembly for Wales.

Although describing itself as a libertarian party, academic political scientists have instead characterised UKIP's ideological approach as being that of right-wing populism, also identifying it as part of the broader European radical right. Historically UKIP's primary emphasis was on hard Euroscepticism, calling for the UK's exit from the European Union, although it now couples this with nationalist and economically liberal policies. Governed by its leader and National Executive Committee (NEC), UKIP is divided into twelve regional groups, with an additional one representing Gibraltar. UKIP is founder member of the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) European political party, and the party's MEPs sit with the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament. Its support base is primarily older, white, male voters with less formal education.

UKIP was founded in 1991 by the historian Alan Sked as the Anti-Federalist League, a single-issue Eurosceptic party. Renamed UKIP in 1993, the party adopted a wider right-wing platform and gradually increased its support. Under Farage's leadership, from 2009 the party tailored its policies towards the white working-class, before making significant breakthroughs in the 2013 local elections and the 2014 European elections, where UKIP received the most votes. At the 2015 general election, the party gained the third largest vote share and one seat in the House of Commons.


Foundation and early years: 1991–2004

UKIP originated with the Anti-Federalist League, a Eurosceptic political party established in 1991 by the historian Alan Sked which opposed the recently signed Maastricht Treaty and sought to sway the governing Conservative Party toward removing the United Kingdom from the European Union.[9] A former Liberal Party candidate, member of the Bruges Group, and professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), Sked had converted to Euroscepticism while teaching the LSE's European Studies programme.[10] Under the Anti-Federalist League's banner, Sked stood as a prospective Member of Parliament (MP) in Bath for the 1992 general election, gaining 0.02% of the vote.[11] At a league meeting held in the LSE in September 1993, the group was renamed the UK Independence Party, deliberately avoiding the term "British" so as to avoid confusion with the far right British National Party (BNP).[12]

UKIP contested the European Parliament election, 1994 with little financing and much infighting, securing itself as the fifth largest party in that election with 1% of the vote.[13] During this period, UKIP was viewed as a typical single-issue party by commentators, some of whom drew comparisons between it and the French Poujadist movement.[14] Following the election, UKIP lost much support to the Referendum Party founded by the multi-millionaire James Goldsmith in November 1994; it shared UKIP's Eurosceptic approach but was far better funded.[15] In the 1997 general election, UKIP fielded 194 candidates but secured only 0.3% of the vote nationally, with only one of its candidates, Nigel Farage in Salisbury, securing over 5% of the vote and thus getting his deposit returned.[16] UKIP was beaten by the Referendum Party in 163 of the 165 seats in which they stood against each other,[16] although the former disbanded following Goldsmith's death later that year,[17] with many of its candidates then joining UKIP.[18]

A UKIP campaign bus, 2004

After the election, Sked was pressured into resigning by a party faction led by Farage, David Lott and Michael Holmes, who viewed him as too intellectual and dictatorial.[19] Having left the party, Sked complained that UKIP had been infiltrated by racist and far right elements, including spies for the BNP,[20][21] a connection emphasised in the press, particularly when Farage was photographed meeting with BNP activists.[20] Holmes took over as party leader, and in the 1999 European Parliament elections – the first UK election to use proportional representation – UKIP gained 7% of the vote and three seats, in South East England (Farage), South West England (Holmes), and the East of England (Jeffrey Titford).[22]

An internal power struggle ensued between Holmes and the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), which was critical of Holmes after he called for the European Parliament to have greater powers over the European Commission. Led by Farage, the NEC removed Holmes from power, with Titford subsequently being elected leader.[23][24] In the 2001 general election, UKIP secured 1.5% of the vote, with only 6 of its 428 candidates retaining their deposits; it had lost much support to the Conservatives, whose leader William Hague had adopted increasingly Eurosceptic rhetoric during his campaign.[25] In 2002, the former Conservative MP Roger Knapman was elected UKIP leader, bringing with him the experience of mainstream politics that the party had previously lacked.[26] Knapman hired the political campaign consultant Dick Morris to aid UKIP, resulting in the slogan "say no" and a national billboard campaign.[27] In 2004, UKIP reorganised itself nationally as a private company limited by guarantee.[28]

Growing visibility: 2004–2012

Nigel Farage, leader of the party, from 2010; previously from 2006 to 2009

Aided by increased funding from major donors and the celebrity support of the chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk (who stood as a candidate in the East Midlands), UKIP saw its support increase during the 2004 European Parliament elections, when it placed third, securing 2.6 million votes (16.1%) and winning 12 seats.[29] Kilroy-Silk then began criticising Knapman's leadership, arguing that UKIP should stand against Conservative candidates, regardless of whether they were Eurosceptic or not. This position was rejected by many party members, who were uneasy with Kilroy-Silk's newness, and after Farage and Lott backed Knapman, Kilroy's plan failed and he left the party in January 2005.[30][31][32] Two weeks later, he founded his own party, Veritas, taking a number of UKIP members, including both of its London Assembly members, with him.[33][34]

After Kilroy-Silk's defection, UKIP saw its membership decline by a third and donations drop by over a half.[35] UKIP continued to be widely seen as a single-issue party, and thus in the 2005 general election, when it fielded 496 candidates, it secured only 2.2% of the vote, with only 40 candidates getting their deposits returned.[36] This period also witnessed a growth in electoral support for the BNP, with academics and political commentators suggesting that both parties were largely competing for the same voter base, a section of about 20% of the UK population.[37] Given that the BNP had outperformed UKIP in most of the seats that they both contested, many UKIP members, including several figures on the NEC, favoured an electoral pact with the BNP; Farage opposed this and forced the expulsion from the party of those who advocated the pact.[38]

In 2006, Farage was elected leader of UKIP.[39] He sought to broaden UKIP's image away from that of a single-issue party by introducing an array of socially conservative policies, including reducing immigration, tax cuts, restoring grammar schools, and climate change denial.[40] In doing so he sought to capitalise on disenfranchised former Conservatives who had left the party after its leader, David Cameron, had moved in a socially liberal direction.[41] Cameron was highly critical of UKIP, referring to them as "fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists",[42] however the Conservatives' largest donor, Stuart Wheeler, donated £100,000 to UKIP after criticising Cameron's stance towards the Lisbon treaty and the EU.[43] After the UK parliamentary expenses scandal, UKIP witnessed an immediate surge in support,[44] aiding them in the 2009 European Parliament election, where they secured 2.5 million votes (16.5%), resulting in 13 MEPs and making them the second largest party after the Conservatives.[45][46] During the election, UKIP outperformed the BNP, whose electoral support base collapsed shortly after.[47]

In September 2009, Farage resigned as leader.[48][49] The leadership election was won by Lord Pearson,[50][51] who emphasised UKIP's opposition to high immigration rates and an attitude of opposition to Islamism in Britain, calling for a ban on the burqa being worn in public.[52] Pearson however was unpopular with the UKIP grassroots, who viewed him as too much of an establishment figure who was too favourable to the Conservatives.[53] In the 2010 general election, UKIP fielded 558 candidates and secured 3.1% of the vote (919,471 votes), but took no seats.[54][55] This made it the party with the largest percentage of the popular vote to win no seats in the election.[56] Pearson stood down as leader in August,[57][58] and Farage was re-elected in the leadership election with more than 60% of the vote.[57][59] Farage placed new emphasis on developing areas of local support through growth in local councils.[60] Observing that the party had done well in areas dominated by white blue-collar workers with no educational attainment, and that conversely it had done poorly in areas with high numbers of graduates and ethnic minorities, UKIP's campaign refocused directly at the former target vote.[61] In the May 2012 local elections, UKIP put up 691 candidates in around 2,500 local council election contests. Their average % vote share (weighted according to total votes cast) was 13%.[62][63] During this year, UKIP had witnessed far greater press coverage and growing support, with opinion polls placing it at around 10% support in late 2012.[64]

Entering mainstream politics: 2013 to present

Results of the European Parliament election, 2014 in England. Districts where UKIP received the largest number of votes are shown in purple.

UKIP put up a record number of candidates for the 2013 local elections and in the run up to the election performed well in opinion polls,[65] despite a number of controversies over individual candidates in the weeks before the elections.[66] In the elections, the party achieved its best ever local government result, polling an average of 23% in the wards where it stood, and increasing its number of elected councillors from 4 to 147.[67][68] It made significant gains in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Kent, taking 15, 16 and 17 seats respectively.[69] This was declared the best result for a party outside the big three in British politics since the Second World War,[70] with UKIP being described as "the most popular political insurgency" in Britain since the Social Democratic Party during the 1980s.[71]

In local elections in 2014, UKIP won 163 seats, an increase of 128, but did not take control of any council.[72] In March 2014, Ofcom and the BBC awarded UKIP "major party status" for the 2014 European Elections.[73] UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra MEPs for a total of 24.[74] The party won seats in every region of Britain, including its first in Scotland.[75] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the most votes in a UK-wide election.[75]

UKIP gained its first elected MP with Douglas Carswell winning the seat of Clacton during a Clacton by-election in October 2014.[76] Carswell had defected from the Conservatives, and gained 59.75% of the vote.[76] In November fellow defector from the Conservatives, Mark Reckless, resigned his seat in order to trigger a by-election, before being re-elected for UKIP in Rochester and Strood.[77] In the 2015 general election, Carswell held his seat but Reckless lost his. UKIP's share of the vote nationally rose to 13%. Farage did not win the constituency of South Thanet and briefly resigned as leader,[78] before the party's NEC rejected his resignation and he was re-instated as party leader.[79] In the 2015 local elections held on the same day, UKIP took control of Thanet District Council.[80]

Farage resignation and return

In the run-up to the 2015 general election, Farage had said that he would resign as party leader if he did not win the seat of South Thanet.[81] After the election, on 8 May, Farage resigned at 11:22am saying that he is "going to take the summer off, enjoy myself a bit, not do much politics at all and there will be a leadership election for Ukip in September." He raised the possibility that he might stand in that election.[82] However, he was reinstated three days later when the party's NEC unanimously rejected his resignation.[83]

A row within the party then began over the refusal by Douglas Carswell, the party's only MP, to take the full Short money allocated to UKIP. There were subsequent briefings critical of Carswell and then, in turn, of Farage.[83] Patrick O'Flynn MEP, in particular, was critical of Farage and two of his advisers in an interview in The Times in which he described Farage as a "snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive man", although he later said he wanted Farage to stay leader. The two aides, Matthew Richardson and Farage's chief of staff, Raheem Kassam, later quit.[83] UKIP donor Stuart Wheeler said he would like Farage "to step down at least for the moment", while other sources called for a leadership contest, but Suzanne Evans, a possible successor, gave Farage her support.[83] On 14 May, Farage ruled out resigning, saying it was the wrong time for the party to have a leadership election and that he had great support within the party.[84]

Some within the party called for him to take a 'short break', including Douglas Carswell and Suzanne Evans, the latter adding that "two weeks’ holiday would be enough".[85] O'Flynn subsequently resigned from his economics role in the party, while Evans' contract for her policy role came to an end. Richardson was re-instated in June 2015.[86] No candidates declared their intention to stand during the time Farage resigned and was reinstated as leader three days later, although media speculation identified several possible candidates.[87]

Following a worse-than-expected result in the Oldham West and Royton by-election, Carswell told the BBC that the Party needs a "fresh face" as leader, and called for UKIP to become a party that is not seen as "unpleasant" and "socially illiberal".[88] As a consequence, Carswell was asked to explain himself at the Party executive committee's January 2016 meeting.[89]

Ideology and policies

UKIP are situated on the right wing of the left-right political spectrum.[7] More specifically, academic political scientists and political commentators have varyingly described UKIP as a right-wing populist party,[90] and as part of Europe's wider radical right.[91][92] During its establishment in 1993, UKIP's founders explicitly described it as a populist party,[93] with the party being influenced by the "Tory populism" of Conservative politicians Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell.[7]

"So what kind of party is UKIP ? Ideologically, the party combines a mix of old-style liberal commitments to free markets, limited government and individual freedom with conservative appeals to national sovereignty and traditional social values."

— Political scientist Stephen Driver, 2011.[94]

The party describes its position as being that of civic nationalism, and in its manifesto explicitly rejects ethnic nationalism by encouraging support from Britons of all ethnicities and religions.[95][96] It considers itself to be a British unionist party, although its support base is based largely in England.[97] In UKIP's literature, the party has placed an emphasis on "restoring Britishness" and counteracting what it sees as a "serious existential crisis" exhibited by the "Islamification" of Britain, the "pseudo-nationalisms" of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and the multi-cultural and supra-national policies promoted by "the cultural left", describing its own stance as being "unashamedly unicultural".[97] Mycock and Hayton argued that UKIP's nationalist approach conflates Englishness with Britishness, thus exhibiting an "inherent Anglocentrism" that negates the distinct culture of the Scottish, Welsh, and Irish peoples of the United Kingdom.[97]

UKIP also presents itself as a libertarian party.[98][99] Similarly, UKIP supporter James Delingpole characterised the party as "patriotic, fiscally conservative, socially libertarian".[100] Conversely, commentators writing in The Spectator, The Independent, and New Statesman have all challenged the description of UKIP as libertarian, highlighting its socially conservative and economically protectionist policies as being contrary to a libertarian ethos.[101]

Political scientists Amir Abedi and Thomas Carl Lundberg characterised UKIP as an "Anti-Political Establishment" party.[102] The party's rhetoric presents a fundamental divide between the governing elite and the British population.[103] It presents the UK's three primary parties, the Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats, as being essentially interchangeable, referring to them with the portmanteux of "LibLabCon".[104] UKIP claims to stand up for ordinary people against this political elite, presenting itself using recurring populist rhetoric such as by describing its policies as "common sense".[105]

European and foreign policy

Opposition to the UK's membership of the European Union (flag pictured) is UKIP's founding principle

UKIP is a Hard Eurosceptic party,[106] and opposition to the United Kingdom's continued membership of the European Union is UKIP's "core issue",[107] being "central to the party's identity".[108] UKIP characterises the EU as a fundamentally un-democratic institution and stresses the need to regain what it describes as the UK's national sovereignty from the EU.[109] UKIP emphasises Euroscepticism to a far greater extent than any of Western Europe's other main radical right parties,[110] and it would only be post-2010 that they began seriously articulating other issues.[111]

UKIP advocates leaving the European Union, resulting in stopping payments to the EU and withdrawal from EU treaties, while maintaining trading ties with other European countries.[112] The party leadership has suggested a referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU, expressing the view that in the case of an exit vote, they could negotiate favourable terms for the country's withdrawal, for instance through ensuring a free trade agreement between the UK and EU.[113] Nigel Farage says Britain can get a "simple free trade agreement" with Europe.[114] In contrast to involvement in the EU, UKIP emphasise the UK's global connections, in particularly to member states of the British Commonwealth.[115] UKIP deny the description that they are "Europhobes", maintaining that they are anti-EU, not anti-European.[115]


On economic issues, UKIP's original activist base was largely libertarian, supporting an economically liberal approach.[116] Its libertarian views have been influenced by classical liberalism and Thatcherism, with the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher representing a key influence on UKIP's thought.[98] Farage has characterised UKIP as "the true inheritors" of Thatcher, claiming that the party never would have formed had Thatcher remained in political office throughout the 1990s.[98]

Farage at the 2009 UKIP Conference

UKIP propose an increase the personal allowance to the level of full-time minimum wage earnings (approx. £13,500 as of the 2015 General Election). It also plans to abolish Inheritance Tax.[117] It would introduce a 35p income tax rate for taxable income between £42,285 and £55,000, with the 40p rate payable above that.[118][119][120][121] A Treasury Commission would be set up to design a turnover tax to ensure big businesses pay a minimum floor rate of tax as a proportion of their UK turnover.[122] UKIP opposes the "bedroom tax" and intends to make child benefit payable only to children permanently resident in the UK, and limit it to the first two children of a family. (This would not apply to children born before implementation). UKIP supports a "simplified, streamlined welfare system" and a "benefit cap".[122]

UKIP would allow businesses to favour British workers over migrants,[123] would repeal the Agency Workers Directive[citation needed] and "much of" Britain's racial discrimination law, which was described as "shocking" by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government[124] and viewed as discriminatory by others.[125] However, Farage insists that his comments regarding his party's policies on these matters have been "wilfully misinterpreted".[123]

Britain's seat at the World Trade Organisation would be reclaimed, ensuring that the UK would continue to enjoy 'most favoured nation' status in trade with the EU, as is required under WTO rules.[122] Although the party does not have an official stance on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the party's trade spokesperson (Lord William Dartmouth), and health spokesperson (Louise Bours) have stated that they do not wish the National Health Service to be included in the trade deal, according to the International Business Times.[126]


A UKIP candidate campaigning in the run-up to the 2010 general election

UKIP has placed great emphasis on the issue of immigration to the UK,[127] with Farage describing it as "the biggest single issue facing this party" in 2013.[128] UKIP attributes UK membership of the EU as the core cause of immigration to the UK, citing the Union's open-border policies as the reason why large numbers of East European migrants have moved to Britain.[128] In their 2015 election manifesto, UKIP stated that they wanted the UK to adopt a points-system for incoming migrants, with a cap of 50,000 skilled migrants a year. They also stated their intention to prevent any migrants from claiming any form of state benefits until they had been resident in the UK for at least five years.[129][130] UKIP will not put a cap or target on the number of migrants moving to the UK.[131] the journalist Daniel Trilling stated that UKIP utilised the "anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim populism" that was popular in the late 2000s.[132] Political scientist David Art suggested that in its campaign to restrict immigration, UKIP had "flirted with xenophobia",[133] while political scientist Simon Usherwood stated that a hardening of immigration policy in 2003 at the time "risked reinforcing the party’s profile as a quasi-far right grouping", only for both Labour and the Conservatives to shortly after take up the same issues. [134]

On health UKIP's policy is to keep the National Health Service (NHS) and GP visits free at the point of use for UK citizens.[135][136] Non-citizens would be required to have approved medical insurance "as a condition of entering the UK".[137] Farage has spoken in favour of an insurance-based system in the past, which he said would resemble the French and Dutch style system rather than an American style private system, but this was rejected by the party. He has commented, "we may have to think about ways in the future about dealing with health care differently".[138]

UKIP has announced that it would repeal the Climate Change Act 2008, estimating that it costs the economy £18bn a year. They wish to also scrap the Large Combustion Plant Directive and encourage the redevelopment of British power stations as well as industrial units providing on-site power generation. The party supports the development of shale gas with proper safeguards for the local environment. Community improvement levy money from the development of shale gas fields would be earmarked for lower council taxes or community projects within the local authority being developed. There would be no new subsidies for wind farms and solar arrays. UKIP would also abolish green taxes and charges in order to reduce fuel bills. A primary policy of UKIP is to fully ensure the protection of the Green Belt.[122]

In The Guardian, commentator Ed Rooksby described UKIP's approach to many social issues as being "traditionalist and socially conservative".[139] UKIP opposed the introduction of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom.[140] It has supported the existence of selective education through the form of grammar schools.[128] UKIP wants to repeal the Human Rights Act,[141] and remove Britain from both the European Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights.[142]

In respect to Education policy, UKIP would introduce an option for students to take an apprenticeship qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs which can be continued at A-Level. Students could take up apprenticeships in jobs with certified professionals qualified to grade the progress of the student. Subject to academic performance, UKIP would remove tuition fees for students taking approved degrees in science, medicine, technology, engineering or mathematics, on the condition that they live, work and pay tax in the UK for five years after the completion of their degrees. Students from the EU would be required to pay the same student fee rates as international students. UKIP supports the principle of 'free schools' an expansion in the number of grammar schools. Schools would be investigated by OFSTED on the presentation of a petition to the Department for Education signed by 25% of parents or governors.[122]

UKIP have emphasised the need to correct what they the perceive as the imbalance resulting from the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula.[143] Although the party had previously opposed the existence of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament,[144] in September 2011, Farage and the NEC announced its support for the establishment of an English Parliament to accompany the other devolved governments.[143] UKIP fully supports the British monarchy and its constitutional role.[145] In 2012, it opposed disestablishment of the Church of England and said it would consider a transfer of part of the Crown Estates back to the Monarchy, in exchange for an end to annual State support.[146]

Farage has said that Gibraltar, along with all other British Overseas Territories, should have representatives in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, similar to the privileges given to French overseas territories in France. Farage believes that all citizens for whom the British Parliament passes legislation, whether in the United Kingdom or its territories, deserve democratic representation in that Parliament.[147]


UKIP advocates a 40% increase in the UK's national defence budget.[128] It opposes UK military involvement in conflicts that are not perceived to be in the national interest, specifically rejecting the concept of humanitarian interventionism.[128] For instance, in 2014 it opposed the Cameron government's plans to militarily intervene against the government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war following the Ghouta chemical attack.[148]

UKIP advocate the establishment of a veterans' department which would bring together all veterans' services to ensure servicemen and women receive the after-service care they "deserve". Veterans would also receive a "Veterans' Service Card" to ensure they are fast tracked for mental health care and services if needed. UKIP also announced that it would introduce a National Service Medal for all who have served in the armed forces.[122]



# Leader Tenure Notes
1 Alan Sked 1993–1997
- Craig Mackinlay 1997 Acting leader
2 Michael Holmes, MEP 1997–2000 MEP from 1999–2004
3 Jeffrey Titford, MEP 2000–2002 MEP from 1999–2009
4 Roger Knapman, MEP 2002–2006 MEP from 2004–2009
5 Nigel Farage, MEP 2006–2009 MEP from 1999
6 The Lord Pearson of Rannoch 2009–2010
- Jeffrey Titford 2010 Acting leader
(5) Nigel Farage, MEP 2010–

A leadership election was due to take place after Nigel Farage briefly resigned in May 2015, but the resignation was rejected by the party's National Executive Committee.[149]


Department Spokesperson Other
Leader Nigel Farage
Education Paul Nuttall Deputy leader
Deputy Chairman Suzanne Evans
Head of Policy Mark Reckless
Economy Mark Reckless
Home Affairs Diane James
Health Louise Bours
Defence Mike Hookem
Energy Roger Helmer
Employment Jane Collins
Immigration Steven Woolfe
Housing and Environment Andrew Charalambous
Disability Star Ethridge
Transport Jill Seymour
Science Julia Reid
Small Business Margot Parker
Agriculture Stuart Agnew
Fisheries Ray Finch
Heritage and Tourism William Cash
Local Government Peter Reeve
Culture and Communities Peter Whittle
Commonwealth spokesman James Carver
Trade William Dartmouth
International Development Nathan Gill Head of UKIP Wales
Head of UKIP Scotland David Coburn


UKIP office in Royal Tunbridge Wells

UKIP's organisation is divided into twelve regions: London, South East, South West, Eastern, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire, North East, North West, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.[150] An additional, thirteenth branch, operates in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; it held its first public meeting at the Lord Nelson pub in April 2013.[151]


House of Commons

Douglas Carswell is the first elected Member of Parliament for UKIP

In the UK, the first-past-the-post voting system for electing MPs to the House of Commons was a significant barrier to UKIP, whose support was widely distributed across different areas rather than being strongly focused in particular constituencies.[152] Further, the system encouraged tactical voting, with many UKIP supporters believing that a vote for the party would be a wasted vote.[153] Recognising this, Farage believed that the best way to win a seat in the House of Commons was to win a by-election, with UKIP contesting a number of these from 2010 onward.[154] Over the next few years, they contested a number of by-elections around the country, coming second in both Barnsley Central and Rotherham.[155] In 2008, Bob Spink, the MP for Castle Point, resigned the Tory whip (becoming an Independent) but in April that year joined UKIP.[156] However, in November he appeared again as an Independent in Commons proceedings,[157] ultimately losing the seat to a Conservative in 2010.

In 2014, two Conservative MPs changed allegiance to UKIP and resigned their seats to fight by-elections for UKIP. Douglas Carswell won the Clacton by-election on 9 October, making him the first MP to be elected representing UKIP.[158] Mark Reckless was also victorious in the Rochester and Strood by-election on 20 November.[77] In the 2015 General Election, Carswell kept his seat in Clacton but Reckless lost Rochester to the Conservative Kelly Tolhurst.[159] UKIP had 3,881,129 votes (12.6%) and was the third largest party on vote share, yet it won only one seat.[160] Because of this, there were calls from some in UKIP for a voting reform in favour of proportional representation.[161]

House of Lords

On 24 June 1995, UKIP gained its first member of the House of Lords, The Lord Grantley, who had joined the party in 1993 from the Conservatives and had recently succeeded to his father's titles. However, with the coming House of Lords Act 1999, he decided not to stand for election as a continuing member, and so left the House in November 1999.[citation needed] Earlier in 1999, UKIP had gained a second peer in the House of Lords, The Earl of Bradford, but he, too, left the House in November 1999 because of the House of Lords Act.[citation needed] The Lord Pearson of Rannoch and The Lord Willoughby de Broke both defected to UKIP in 2007,[162] giving the party its first representation in the House of Lords since the departure of Lord Grantley and Lord Bradford.[163] The Lord Pearson of Rannoch went on to serve as party leader from November 2009 to September 2010. On 18 September 2012, The Lord Stevens of Ludgate joined UKIP, having sat as an Independent Conservative since his expulsion from the Conservatives in 2004.[164]

Devolved Seats
London Assembly
0 / 25
Scottish Parliament
0 / 129
Welsh Assembly
0 / 60
Northern Ireland Assembly
1 / 108

Regional assemblies and parliaments

On 4 October 2012, UKIP gained its first representation in the Northern Ireland Assembly in David McNarry, MLA for Strangford, who had been sitting as an independent, following his expulsion from the Ulster Unionist Party.[165]

UKIP's support has been particularly weak in Scotland.[166] UKIP does not have any representatives in the other devolved nations of Scotland or Wales. UKIP fielded candidates at the Scottish Parliament election on 5 May 2011, when its platform included a commitment to keep the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, while replacing the separately-elected Members of the Scottish Parliament with the Members of the House of Commons elected in Scotland.[167] The party also fielded candidates for the National Assembly for Wales.[168]

UKIP won two seats in the London Assembly election, 2004, however, both left the party in 2005, joining Veritas (political party). UKIP has not had members of the Assembly at any other time.[169]

Local government

UKIP initially paid little attention to local government elections. However, this changed after Farage observed that building localised strongholds of support in various parts of the country had been the process by which the Liberal Democrats had entered the House of Commons, and that this was a strategy that could benefit UKIP.[170] UKIP subsequently focused on the 2011 local elections, in which it fielded over 1,100 candidates, winning seven and becoming the main opposition in over 100.[171]

The first UKIP local council election win occurred when one of its members was elected to South Cambridgeshire District Council in 2000. A number of Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent local councillors in all four constituent nations of the UK defected to UKIP over subsequent years, with the most recent defections to date (May to July 2013) coming from former Conservative councillors in the London Boroughs of Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Havering, and from Labour in Northampton and North-East Lincolnshire. In May 2013, 33 English and one Welsh council held local elections, with UKIP gaining 139 seats for a total of 147, with significant gains in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Kent.[172]

In the 2013 local elections, UKIP won 147 seats and established itself as the largest opposition party in six English county councils.[173] At the 2013 and 2014 local elections, UKIP made significant gains to become the fourth largest party in terms of councillors in England, and fifth largest in the UK, with over 300 seats (out of about 21,000). In the 2015 local elections, UKIP took control of Thanet District Council, its first majority control of a council.[80] However, the party lost control later in the year after several of its councillors defected and it lost its majority.[174][175]

European Parliament

As a result of its hard Eurosceptic approach, UKIP does not recognise the legitimacy of the European Parliament, and under Sked's leadership refused to take any of the EP seats that it won. This changed after 1997, when the party decided that its elected representatives would take such seats to publicise its anti-EU agenda.[176] As a result of the 1999 European parliament election, three UKIP MEPs were elected to the European Parliament. Together with Eurosceptic parties from other nations, they formed a new European parliamentary group called Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD).[177]

Following the 2004 European parliament election, 37 MEPs from the UK, Poland, Denmark and Sweden founded a new European Parliamentary group called Independence and Democracy (IND/DEM) as a direct successor to the EDD group.[177][178] After the 2009 European parliament election, UKIP was a founder member of a new right-wing grouping called Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) comprising Eurosceptic, radical right, nationalist, national-conservative and other political factions.[179][180] This group was more right-wing than the previous term's Independence and Democracy group.[181]

Following the 2014 European parliament election, the EFD group was reconstituted as the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD or EFD2) group on 24 June 2014, with a significant changes to group composition, including the Five Star Movement (M5S) of Italy, a total of 48 members.[182] The EFDD group lost official status on 16 October 2014 when the defection of the Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule meant its membership no longer met the required number of states for Parliamentary groups (at least seven different member states).[183][184] The EFD claimed that Grigule had said she left the bloc under pressure from the EU Parliament Speaker Martin Schulz, but a spokesman for Schulz denied this.[185] It was reported Grigule told the secretary general of the EFDD Group that "I had to do it [defect] to get elected."[186] On 20 October, EFD announced it had restored the requisite seven state diversity by recruiting Robert Iwaszkiewicz, one of four representatives of the far-right Polish party Congress of the New Right.[187]

In December 2014 UKIP co-founded a European political party known as Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), whose membership is composed of several member parties of the EFDD parliamentary group.[188]

In response to criticism of low participation by UKIP MEPs in the EU Parliament, Farage has said that "Our objective as MEPs is not to keep voting endlessly for more EU legislation and to take power away from Westminster."[189] In the 2009-14 parliament, UKIP ranked 76th out of 76 for attendance, took part in 61% of votes, and had three of the six lowest attending MEPs,[190] which led to criticism from other parties and ex-UKIP MEPs that low participation may damage British interests.[191] Between July 2014 and May 2015, its 23 MEPs maintained their record as the least active, participating on average in only 62.29% of votes.[192]

On 24 January 2015, Amjad Bashir, the UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, left UKIP and joined the Conservatives. On the same day, UKIP announced that his membership was suspended as he was being investigated over several allegations of impropriety. Bashir described the claims as "absurd and made-up allegations".[193]

Current members of the European Parliament

UKIP has 22 members in the European Parliament, with representatives in eleven of the twelve European Parliament constituencies in the UK.

Constituency MEP(s)
East Midlands Roger Helmer, Margot Parker
East of England Patrick O'Flynn, Stuart Agnew, Tim Aker
London Gerard Batten
North East Jonathan Arnott
North West England Paul Nuttall, Louise Bours, Steven Woolfe
Scotland David Coburn
South East England Nigel Farage, Diane James, Ray Finch
South West England William Dartmouth, Dr Julia Reid
Wales Nathan Gill
West Midlands Jill Seymour, James Carver, Bill Etheridge
Yorkshire and the Humber Jane Collins, Mike Hookem

Source: The Independent, 27 May 2014[194]

Election results

House of Commons

During the 2010-15 Parliament, two Conservative MPs defected to UKIP and were re-elected in subsequent by-elections. At the 2015 general election, UKIP retained one of these seats (Clacton) and received over 30% of the vote in Boston & Skegness, South Thanet and Heywood & Middleton.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won
1997[195] 105,722 Increase 0.3% Increase 0 Steady
2001[196] 390,563 Increase 1.5% Increase 0 Steady
2005[197] 603,298 Increase 2.2% Increase 0 Steady
2010[198] 919,546 Increase 3.1% Increase 0 Steady
2015[199] 3,881,099 Increase 12.6% Increase 1 Increase

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election year # of total votes  % of overall vote # of seats won Rank
1994[200] 155,487 Increase 1% Increase
0 / 87
8 Increase
1999[201] 696,057 Increase 6.7% Increase
3 / 87
4 Increase
2004[202] 2,650,768 Increase 16.1% Increase
12 / 78
3 Increase
2009[203] 2,498,226 Decrease 16.6% Increase
13 / 72
2 Increase
2014[74] 4,376,635 Increase 27.5% Increase
24 / 73
1 Increase



Year Members
2002 9,000
2003 16,000
2004 26,000
2005 19,000
2006 16,000
2007 15,878
2008 14,630
2009 16,252
2010 15,535
2011 17,184
2012 20,409
2013 32,447[1]
2014 42,057
2015 47,000

UKIP's membership numbers increased from 2002 to the time of the 2004 European Parliament election, before hovering around the 16,000 mark during the late 2000s.[1][204] In 2004, the party claimed 20,000 members, with this remaining broadly stable, and in June 2007 it had a recorded 16,700 members.[205] By July 2013, the figure had grown to 30,000[206] before ending the year at 32,447.[207] In 2014, the number was 36,000 on 22 April,[208] by 7 May reached 37,000[209] and on 19 May, less than a fortnight later and only three days before the 2014 European Parliament election, rose to 38,000.[210] On 29 October 2014, Patick O'Flynn MEP, UKIP's Director of Communications announced that membership had grown to 40,094, almost doubling since 2012.[211] As of January 2015, UKIP membership is the fifth highest of British parties.[212][213][214]

Voter base

In its early years, UKIP targeted itself toward southern English, middle-class Eurosceptic voters; these target voters had previously supported the Conservative Party until becoming disenchanted with the Conservative government's signing of the Maastricht Treaty.[215] This led to the widespread perception that UKIP's supporters were primarily middle-class ex-Conservative voters, with commentator Peter Oborne thus describing UKIP as "the Conservative Party in exile".[216] After 2009, UKIP refocused its attention to appeal primarily to white British, working-class, blue collar workers; those who had traditionally voted Labour or in some cases for Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives but who had ceased voting or begun to vote BNP since the emergence of the New Labour project in the 1990s.[215] In this way, UKIP's support base does not line up with the historical left-right divide in British politics, instead being primarily rooted in class divisions.[217] This mirrored the voting base of other radical right parties across Western Europe which had grown since the early 1990s.[218] This scenario had come about following the rapid growth of the middle-classes and the concomitant decline of the working-class population; the centre-left social democratic parties who had traditionally courted the support of the working classes largely switched their attention to the newly emergent middle-classes, leaving their initial support base increasingly alienated and creating the vacuum which the radical right exploited.[219]

"UKIP's voters are not single-issue Europhobes or political protesters, they share a clear and distinct agenda, mixing deep Euroscepticism with clear ideas about immigration, national identity and the way British society is changing. The conflict between UKIP's voters and the political mainstream reflects a deep-seated difference in outlook among voters from different walks in life. Those who lead and staff the three main parties are all from the highly educated, socially liberal middle classes, who are comfortable in an ethnically and culturally diverse, outward looking society... Those who lead and staff UKIP, and those who vote for them, are older, less educated, disadvantaged and economically insecure Britons, who are profoundly uncomfortable in the 'new' society, which they regard as alien and threatening"

— Political scientists Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, 2014.[220]

On the basis of their extensive study of data on the subject, in 2014 the political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford concluded that "UKIP's support has a very clear social profile, more so than any of the mainstream parties. Their electoral base is old, male, working class, white and less educated".[221] They found that 57% of professed UKIP supporters were over the age of 54, while only one in ten were under 35, which they attributed to the fact that UKIP's socially conservative and Eurosceptic platform appealed far more to Britain's older generations that their younger counterparts, who were more socially liberal and less antagonistic toward the EU.[222] 57% of UKIP supporters were male, which Ford and Goodwin suggested was due to women voters being put off by a number of high profile sexist remarks made by UKIP candidates.[223] 99.6% of UKIP supporters identified as white, reflecting the fact that ethnic minorities tended to avoid the party.[224] 55% of UKIP supporters had left school aged 16 or under, with only 24% having attended university, making it clear that the party primarily appealed to the least educated in society.[225] Ford and Goodwin also found that UKIP's support base was more working-class than that of any other party, with 42% of supporters in blue-collar jobs.[226] They also noted however that during elections for the European Parliament, UKIP were able to broaden their support to gain the vote of largely middle-class Eurosceptics who vote Conservative in other elections.[227]

In 2011, the British academics Matthew Goodwin, Robert Ford and David Cutts published a study that identified Euroscepticism as the main causal factor for voters supporting UKIP, with concern over immigration levels and distrust of the political establishment also featuring as important motives. The average UKIP voter was 55 years old, which is older than for other parties. There was no correlation between social class and likelihood of voting UKIP, although UKIP voters tended to feel more financially insecure than the average voter. The skilled working class were found to be slightly overrepresented amongst UKIP voters, and there was a higher likelihood that a UKIP voter had grown up in a Conservative-supporting household compared to the average voter.[228] Ford and Goodwin described UKIP's voters as primarily comprising the "left behind" sector of society, "older, less skilled and less well educated working-class voters" who felt disenfranchised from the mainstream political parties who had increasingly focused on attempting to win the support of middle-class swing voters.[229]

From their analysis of the data, Ford and Goodwin stated that UKIP's support base has "strong parallels" both with that of Western Europe's other radical right parties and with the BNP during their electoral heyday.[230] Conversely, an earlier study by Richard Whitaker and Philip Lynch of the University of Leicester, based on polling data from YouGov, concluded that "the balance of attitudinal explanations of UKIP support makes its voters distinct from those voting for far right parties". The authors found that voter support for UKIP correlated with concerns about the value of immigration, and a lack of trust in the political system but the biggest explanatory factor for their support of UKIP was Euroscepticism.[231] A further study by the same authors suggests that UKIP voters' core beliefs align very closely to those of the UKIP candidates; particularly so on issues surrounding European integration, which has resulted in Conservative voters switching to UKIP due to divisions within the Conservatives over this issue.[232]

In May 2013, Stephan Shakespeare, the CEO of YouGov, analysed the reasons for the strong support and performance of UKIP in the 2013 local elections. He observed that voter research showed UKIP had "very loyal" followers, with a high proportion of ex-Conservative voters, and that the primary reason for support was a sense by voters that UKIP "seemed to be on the same wavelength" as the population, was perceived as "genuine", "simply different", and that, by tapping into the "anti-politics mood", became contrasted strongly with "the others [who] haven't got a clue about the real world". He concluded that "you just don't get this [perception] with other party leaders, not even from their supporters". Noting also that 23% of voters reported giving "serious consideration" to voting UKIP, and that non-UKIP voters were "only half as likely to mention immigration or Europe" as existing UKIP voters. He also concluded that these potential voters were "best won" by providing a "broad agenda".[233]

An analysis of UKIP support from surveys in October 2014 conducted by YouGov, showed increasing support from former Labour and, to a lesser extent, Liberal Democrat voters. The polling by YouGov reported that the proportion of UKIP's supporters who were former Labour voters had doubled since January 2013 (7% to 13%) and grown from former Liberal Democrat supporters (15% to 17%), with former Conservative supporters down from 60% to 48%.[234] A December 2014 poll found voters saw UKIP as left of the Conservative party[235]

In terms of the religion of UKIP voters, the party performs strongly among the Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist electorate. Of non-Christians, it has relatively high support from Jews, Buddhists and atheists, a lower rate from Hindus and Sikhs, but a significantly low amount of Muslim voters.[236] It has been pointed out that although parts of the UK where UKIP has strong support were historically Puritan, it also has a growing number of Roman Catholic voters.[237]

Ford and Goodwin noted that UKIP "barely registers" with young Britons, graduates, ethnic minorities, and pro-EU voters.[238] According to an Opinium/Observer poll in December 2014 on the views of 17- to 22-year-olds, Nigel Farage was the least popular political leader. Only 3% of young people questioned said that they intended to vote for UKIP, compared with 19% among voters of all ages.[239] The 17% who said they would vote outside the three main parties were four times more likely to vote for the Green Party than for UKIP.[240] An Ipsos Mori poll in March 2015 found among 18- to 34-year-olds UKIP was polling nearly as well as the Green Party and was almost level with the Lib Dems and that while UKIP gained more support from the "grey vote" these figures somewhat contradicted the widely held assumption that Farage had no appeal for younger voters.[241]

Financial backing

In 2008, the academic Simon Usherwood noted that UKIP relied heavily on a small number of major financial backers.[242]

According to UKIP's annual returns to the Electoral Commission,[243] in 2013 the party had a total income of £2,479,314. Of this, £714,492 was from membership and subscriptions, £32,115 from fundraising activities and £1,361,640 from donations. By law, individual donations over £7,500 must be reported.[244]

According to The Guardian, a leaked internal report to UKIP's executive committee dated to September 2012 shows that the party's leader argued that "the key to money for us will be the hedge fund industry".[245]

UKIP has several high profile backers. On 28 March 2009, the Conservative Party's biggest-ever donor, Stuart Wheeler, donated £100,000 to UKIP after criticising David Cameron's stance towards the Lisbon treaty and the EU. He was then expelled from the Conservatives and, in 2011, appointed treasurer of UKIP to spearhead fundraising for the 2014 European election campaign.[246] Wheeler has donated more than £403,690 since 2009,[247] including £150,000 in February 2014.[248] In October 2014, Arron Banks, who previously gave £25,000 to the Conservatives, increased his UKIP donation from £100,000 to £1m after William Hague said he had never heard of him.[249] In December 2014, Richard Desmond, proprietor of Express Newspapers, donated £300,000 to UKIP. Desmond had made Lord Stevens, the UKIP peer and the former chairman of Express Newspapers, his deputy chairman in October.[249] The donation indicated that Desmond's papers, the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday, would back UKIP in the run-up to the 2015 general election.[250] Three weeks before the election, Desmond gave the party another £1 million.[251]


The BBC received almost 1,200 complaints about its coverage of the 2014 European and local elections, saying it was biased towards UKIP or gave UKIP too much air-time.[252] The BBC denied any bias. UKIP politicians including Nigel Farage have accused the BBC of a liberal bias, particularly on issues of immigration, the European Union, and climate change.[253]

Writing for The New York Times Magazine, Geoffrey Wheatcroft noted that there had been "a concerted campaign to brand UKIP as racist, an accusation that some of its own activists have done nothing to discourage."[254] A number of remarks deemed to be racist or sexist have been made by party activists and candidates, before being widely publicised in the press.[255] The party has been vocally opposed by anti-fascist groups such as Hope not Hate, who have accused it of tapping in to nationalist and xenophobic sentiment in its campaigns.[256]

In a YouGov survey in May 2014, 47% considered the media biased against UKIP, this was more than twice as many who considered the media biased against other parties.[257]

See also


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External links