“Rightist Party Bashes Europe, and Britons Cheer”
The Washington Post, May 15, 2014, p.A1
“As surely as the toll echoes from Big Ben, every nationwide election in Britain for more than a century has been won by one of two parties: Labor or the Conservatives. Next week, that august record is likely to come crashing down, courtesy of a far-right insurgent party that has seized on a pervasive anti-immigrant and anti-establishment mood to rocket to the lead in polls for the European parliamentary election. … The rise of the U.K. Independence Party has shaken up British politics in a way rarely seen here. While far-right parties have long been influential across continental Europe, they have always been relegated to the fringe in this country, which sees itself as open and inclusive. But the political and economic stars have aligned in UKIP’s favor, and a party that’s dismissed as racist, xenophobic and a bit loony by London sophisticates suddenly is steering the national debate with its calls for Britain to close down borders and leave the European Union. A victory in European elections would confirm its newfound status as a major political player, even though UKIP lacks a single seat in the British Parliament. The party’s message has resonated particularly well in struggling small towns and decaying industrial centers, where the benefits of a recovering economy are scarcely felt and where mainstream politicians are seen as out of touch with constituents furious over a massive influx of foreign workers. … The party’s emergence doesn’t just challenge the ruling Conservatives, who have scrambled to the right on immigration and environmental policies to keep from being outflanked. As Harris’s conversion shows, it also threatens to eat into support for Labor, which risks losing the backing of working-class voters alienated by the party’s progressivism. UKIP’s appeals to the Reagan Democrats of Britain are hardly subtle: On one campaign billboard, a dejected worker sits on the curb with a coin cup at his feet. ‘British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labor,’ reads the ad’s text.”
Quickie Analysis: As one analyst said in the article, the UKIP “promises a better yesterday. … They dislike the modern world and want to get off.” Sounds familiar to rightist movements in other countries, including the US.