The UKIP’s surprise upsurge of votes in council elections and its victory in European elections demonstrates that UKIP is no longer a party simply watching from the side-lines. The party has invigorated many disenfranchised voters to voice their anger and discontent at mainstream parties. Some party officials still cling to the claim that the surge in UKIP support is simply due to a protest vote, but party leaders are beginning to comprehend the pivotal role UKIP will play in the coming general election.

A recent study released by the Fabian Society found that the increase in support for UKIP will divert not only the share of votes for the Conservatives, but will also have a significant effect on Labour. This is important as Labour is losing support among low paid workers, which the study states, is particularly important for winning the general election. Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats are in shambles, after the humiliating defeat in European elections resulted in the party’s worst outcome in 25 years and led to repeated calls for the resignation of Nick Clegg. Analysts believe that UKIP has transformed the political landscape of the UK, as this is the first time in 100 years that the one of the two major parties have not won a national election.

However, UKIP still faces various controversies surrounding its candidates; for example, UKIP candidate, Harry Perry, stood down from elections due to the controversial tweet concerning Islam and homosexuals. There is a spate of recent coverage in the media of UKIP candidates and some members’ far-right ideals. It is not to say all candidates hold far right ideals, most simply campaign for ideologies of the party, such as its distrust of the EU and the increasing immigration that is a result of Britain’s membership. Many outside the party hold similar concerns of what they believe to be unsustainable levels of immigration, which puts further pressure in already strained public services. In fact, YouGov poll found that most did not believe the party itself was racist rather it attracted individuals who held racists opinions. Despite their success in European elections, UKIP has never won a seat in the House of Commons, but it may soon change as they are ahead of the Liberal Democrat party in the polls.

If UKIP wishes to rise in prominence it must take better control of its members, warning them of expressing viewpoints which may offend others. However, UKIP is not alone in raising controversy concerning  members of its party. A Tory council candidate, David Bishop, has also left the party due to anti-Islamic and homophobic remarks on Twitter. Furthermore, scrutiny will not decrease, and as UKIP continue to rise it will face further scrutiny from the media and the general public.

The existence of UKIP raises debate about governance in the EU, and the UK. Such debate is essential in any democracy. However, if its members continue to express beliefs that question integrity of its candidates and the greater party, then UKIP will face difficulty in gaining power in Westminster. The victory in European Parliament elections does not guarantee a significant effect on the general elections. For instance, the Conservatives had won a majority in the 1999 European elections, but they failed to win a general election in 2001. The by-election in Newark, won by the Conservatives, further demonstrates  UKIP’s failure in generating support for general elections. Moreover, UKIP has yet to produce a consensus support in London.

Undoubtedly UKIP has stormed into politics in the UK, to the extent that major parties are altering their rhetoric in accordance to opinions on the power of the EU. The Conservatives are asserting that if they win in the general election they will hold a referendum about UK membership in the EU. Although Labour did not ‘guarantee’ a referendum on UK membership of the EU, they will support a referendum if powers of the EU increase. UKIP has dramatically risen in power, and the coming elections will demonstrate if this rise in support will affect national elections.

If the UKIP wishes to progress to greater power in Westminster, then they must tighten their policies, rein in controversial members and introduce open debate within the party. In order to play with the big boys of politics, the party and the leader of UKIP will have to modify themselves and display their maturity.

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