UKIP has what every political party wants…Momentum

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The nationalist UK Independence Party (UKIP) has been the biggest beneficiary of the loss support for the traditional three large parties – the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. Support for UKIP has doubled in the past two years to around 15-17%, putting it in third place, comfortably ahead of the Liberal Democrats (see Figure 1). At the last elections UKIP was just another acronym vying for attention alongside the British National Party (BNP), Scottish National Party (SNP) and Greens. Today it has two MPs – a number that is likely to rise at the next elections.

Importantly, UKIP has what every political party wants ahead of elections – momentum, and with it disproportionately high media coverage. Arguably the writing was on the wall – nationalism has been on the rise throughout Europe – and it was wishful thinking to assume the UK would be immune. Perhaps most obvious is the ascendancy in France of an already powerful Front National (FN)[1]. UKIP leader Farage only has to look across the channel to see what he could achieve.

Admittedly, the UK’s first-past the post electoral system and constituency-boundary vagaries make it difficult to accurately translate popular support into an actual number of parliamentary seats. Political analysts also acknowledge that this degree of error has increased in line with the emergence of new parties, such as UKIP, and the end of a 2-3 party political system.

However, it’s clear that Prime Minister Cameron needs to score some big political points post haste to secure even a narrow victory over Labour. This likely means arresting and ideally reversing UKIP’s steady rise. More on that in following commentaries.

Olivier Desbarres figure 4

Figure 1: Support for Labour has steadily eroded with UKIP greatest beneficiary. Source:


Olivier Desbarres is a former G10 and emerging markets economist, rates & currency strategist with 15 years experience. He has written extensively on EU membership and is now an independent commentator.

[1] The FN won May’s EU Parliament elections with 25% of the votes (ahead of the incumbent Socialists), it has for the first time two deputies in the Senate and FN leader Marine Le Pen dramatically topped a recent presidential election poll.

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