It’s been nearly two decades since it was established, but the U.K.’s Independence Party(UKIP) isn’t going away, and indeed, it has begun to make inroads, particularly at the local level. The larger reason for this opportunity may be that the establishment Tory party, long considered the UK’s “conservatives,” have abandoned conservative policies in favor of progressive ideas. If that sounds familiar to you, it should, because in many respects, our own Republican party, long-portrayed in media as virtually synonymous with “conservative” has been behaving like liberals. Of course, the Tories in the UK have always been more slanted to the left than had been our Republicans, but lately, they’ve all but abandoned any pretense to conservative thought. As this has happened, it has had a curious effect on the Independence Party, swelling its ranks lately and giving it a real foothold in local elections. UKIP seems to understand this is a fight over the long run, and not a battle to be won in an election cycle or two. Their leader, Nigel Farage, made clear in an interview with Foxnews what is the UKIP’s aim:
“We want to take back our country, we want to take back our government, and we want to take back our birthright,”
If this sounds familiar to Tea Party activists, it should. Just like the Republicans here, the Tories have begun to fully embrace National Healthcare, and all sorts of left-wing ideals, including liberal immigration policies, and the whole slate of liberal policy preferences advocated and advanced by their Labor Party. the U.K.’s equivalent to our own Democrats. The largest strategic difference between the Tea Party and the UKIP is that rather than seeking to influence the Tories, the Independence Party is in direct competition with them. They are not trying to work on the party from within, but instead making a full frontal assault on the establishment “Conservatives.” While not precisely like the Tea Party in all respects, in terms of a movement, it is quite similar in its grass-roots orientation.
Naturally, they are dismissed as “racists” and “kooks” and all sorts of demeaning labels by both the traditional parties, but that isn’t stopping them from moving ahead. Dishonest labels only work so long, as does the attempt to define the whole of the party by the bombastic or outrageous statements of a few individuals within it. More, the UKIP has focused on an issue that seems to a majority of voters across party lines: Membership in the EU. UKIP opposes it while both Labor and the Tories favor it, despite the fact that a clear majority of the populace stands in favor of withdrawing from the EU. With this on the table in 2014, UKIP stands to make further inroads as the only party pushing in the same direction as the populace.
This is in many respects like the arguments on two issues we face domestically. The first is Obama-care, and the second is immigration. In both cases, the US population is opposed by strong majorities to any sort of amnesty and continuance of the health-care law. While there are still some Republicans who are opposed to amnesty, and a few more in favor of repeal of Obama-care, the fact remains that a large number of Republicans in both houses of Congress are in favor of an amnesty deal, and distinguishing by their votes, have been only too willing to fund and thereby continue Obama-care.
If UKIP manages to pull off some electoral victories, it may offer a hint to Tea Party activists in the US: It may be time to put up its own slate of candidates, completely independent of the Republicans, and it may be time to formally register as a political party. The sorts of clear issues in which the American people are at odds with both major political parties may be reaching a climax, at which one party or the other must disappear. This is what happened to the Whigs one and one-half centuries ago, and it may be the end in store for the Republicans if Tea Party activists can get their act together. Like more and more voters in Britain, Americans may discover that they have no need of both a conservative party and a fake conservative party. If this comes to be the case in the U.K., it may evince hope for a resurgence of the Tea Party, perhaps under a new banner independent in all respects of the Republican Party.
It may be time for the Tea Party to take that leap.