Ukip's success is a game-changer—but not in the way the party hopesby John McCormick / May 8, 2013 / Leave a comment
Ukip supporters should make the most of their delight at the party’s showing in English local elections, because it is unlikely that the future will hold much good news for them. Consider how many times we have been here before: against the background of an unpopular national government, voters express their discontent by supporting alternative parties or candidates in local elections, only to return to the major parties at the only contest that really matters: the general election.
It is quite possible that Ukip will use the bounce provided by the local elections to win a handful of seats in parliament in 2015, leading to more celebrations at party headquarters, accompanied by more declarations that the party is here to stay. But its leaders and its strategists must surely be aware that the party faces several critical structural weaknesses.
First, Ukip is by definition a populist party, meaning that it claims to be outside the establishment and to side with the will of the people against the control of elites. By winning seats in government—even at the local level—it loses some of that populist aura and becomes more elitist and mainstream. Instead of sitting on the outside complaining about what government is up to, Ukip is now that much more a part of government and as such will be subject to a different set of expectations.