Lurching Right UKIP Win Creates Pressure for Cameron and Europe

With its clear election victory in Britain on Sunday, anti-EU UKIP and its leader Nigel Farage scored a historic triumph. The win could soon spell trouble for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his partners across the European Union.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage celebrates his party's "historic" victory on Sunday.
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UKIP leader Nigel Farage celebrates his party's "historic" victory on Sunday.

By in London

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) easily won Sunday's European election in Britain, with the anti-EU force gaining 27.5 percent of the vote. It marked the first time since 1910 that a group other than the country's two mainstream parties -- the conservative Tories and center-left Labour -- came out ahead in a national election.

UKIP party boss Nigel Farage spoke of the "most extraordinary moment in British history for a hundred years." Even in the capital city of London, where UKIP fared poorly during municipal elections on Thursday, the party managed to attract a respectable 17 percent of votes.

With its criticism of the European Union mixed with a polemical stance against immigrants and the political establishment, the right-wing populists appear to have struck a chord with many Brits.

The euroskeptics' election victory had been anticipated for weeks. Still, it triggered an uproar within the House of Commons' three largest parties: A strong fourth party on the political stage has the potential to dramatically shift the country's political calculus. In European Parliament, UKIP will now have more seats than Prime Minister David Cameron's Tories (who scored just under 24 percent of the vote) and Labour (which secured 25 percent).

Cameron's government coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats -- the only British party to campaign on a pro-Europe message -- lost 10 of their 11 EU parliament seats. Already, calls are growing louder for Liberal-Democrat party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to step down. Even the Greens managed to surpass the Liberal-Democrats.

Tories Demand Non-Aggression Pact with UKIP

Cameron himself is likewise under pressure following Sunday's vote. Nervous representatives of the party's right wing are calling for Britain's referendum on EU membership to be held earlier than previously planned. They want to close a non-aggression pact with UKIP in advance of the next election for the House of Commons in May 2015. They fear that if the Tories and UKIP campaign against each other it will divide the Conservatives and result in a broad defeat.

Sunday's outcome could also prove a curse for Britain's European partners as well. Growing domestic political pressure will force Cameron to take a firmer line in Brussels than he has thus far. Furthermore, he is certain to become less willing to compromise -- a development that will likely make itself felt in the coming days when EU leaders begin negotiations over the next European Commission president.

Farage Watched Cricket on Election Day

None of the party heads spoke to the press on Sunday night and the only leader in a celebratory mood was Farage, who attended a UKIP party in Southhampton after spending his Sunday afternoon watching a cricket match in Turnbridge Wells. "It was a very English scene. I thoroughly enjoyed myself," he told the Guardian.

Its success in the European election has transformed UKIP into a national party. UKIP even scored a seat in the European Parliament in Scotland, marking the first time the euroskeptic party has ever won a mandate north of England. A blog post in the Financial Times noted that Farage had "justified the media hype of recent weeks."

Still, many experts believe UKIP has now reached its zenith and that the only way it can go from here is down. The party could be stifled as soon as June, at least if the Tories win a by-election in the constituency of Newark. But the highest hurdle facing the party is the entry into the House of Commons. UKIP has never managed to win seats in the national parliament because Britain's first-past-the-post system places smaller parties at a disadvantage.

In 2015, Farage wants to field two dozen candidates, the largest number ever for the party. To combat allegations that his party only has two issues -- the EU and immigration -- Farage will likely make increasing forays into other policy areas. On Monday, Farage announced he plans to name point persons within the party for areas such as defense and health.

They are steps that make it clear that UKIP is on its way to becoming part of the political establishment.

Translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey

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green123 05/27/2014
1. European Parliament as dysfunctional as the US Congress
Cannot help but wonder, that now with anti EU right wingers,left wingers and pro-EU centrists plus right wingers and left wingers, will anything ever be passed. What a circus that is going to be. Unending Bizantine Discussions on "sustainable development" like whether tap water is safe to drink...etc. But nothing on the real issues like Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is being negotiated in strict secrecy without any discussions with the Europeans.
winetgr 05/28/2014
2. British EU stance
The Brits won't be part of a group as one of many. They want to be the leader; make the rules and dictate what others s/do. It's do as I say & not as I do". As London's mayor, Boris Johnson said at the Davos conference in his loud and somewhat arrogant tone: I think the UK s/form an alliance with Switzerland and Norway & do our own thing. They think they are better than those on the "continent" and from what I have heard and read. They think they can manipulate & boss the Swiss & Norwegians better than the whole EU. It's like - if I can't be the leader I don't want to play - kind of thing. They only want the benefits not the other part[s] of a large union! LOL
pmoseley 05/28/2014
3. UKIP not against immigration
I am not a supporter of UKIP, nor am I against the EU, but Der Spiegel has fallen into the same trap as many other newspapers in describing UKIP as an anti-immigration party. It is no such thing. It is against UNCONTROLLED immigration from the EU, at a time when even some mainstream parties in several EU states, and many of its peoples, have exactly the same sentiment. Again, the UK is trail blazing the political landscape of the EU and again will be proved right, despite being isolated for those very same reasons.
wildberry 05/28/2014
4. optional
Always to note the language chosen by Spiegal's contributors. Carsten Volkery introduces his piece with "Lurching Right". Why do 'objective' journalists almost always select "lurch" as inappropriate description of a move in that direction? One would be hard put to find the same (or indeed any) political writer mentioning a 'lurch' to the Left. Perhaps the neutral 'move' or even a 'return' to the Left. Or to the Centre, itself continuously wobbling around at the whim of the commentariat. Another well-worn noun in this context is 'populist'. This always indicates a sneering de haut en bas attitude and seeks, unconvincingly, to present an objective assessment when in reality it reveals a contempt for the very idea of an elective democracy. When Left-wing politicians seek to attract the votes of the electorate they offer all kinds of measure that they hope will be popular enough to secure their election. This is not described by people like Mr Volkery as "populist". One wonders why this is so. But one does not wonder for very long unless one is pretty slow-witted – like those who soak up left-wing commentaries from the Volkerys of this world . . .
Paul Ignotus 05/28/2014
5. Lurching right
To be fair, as a member of the Labour Party, I have to say UKIP isn't racist or anti-immigrant, although individual members/voters may be. It's just a vehicle for popular discontent with the main parties for all sorts of reasons, of which anti-EU feeling is only one. They'll fail abjectly in a UK General Election, because people take that seriously - unfortunately EU elections aren't taken seriously, and are seen as a good opportunity to register protest votes.
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