Anti-EU party wins first British parliament seat in landslide victory
Saturday, 11 October 2014 00:00
Reuters: Britain’s anti-EU UK Independence Party won its first elected seat in parliament on Friday by a landslide and came a close second in another vote, proving it poses a threat to the country’s two main parties in a national election next year.
UKIP, which wants a British EU withdrawal and strict curbs on immigration, was expected to do well in both votes. But the unexpectedly wide margin of its victory in the seaside town of Clacton and its strong performance in an election in northern England, which it almost won too, came as a surprise.
In Clacton, it won 60% of the vote after the sitting parliamentarian for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives defected to UKIP, which didn’t put up a candidate for the area when it was last contested in 2010.
In Heywood and Middleton, in northern England, a traditional stronghold for the opposition Labour party, UKIP got almost 39% of the vote, up from less than 3% in 2010.
“There is nothing that we cannot achieve,”Clacton’s new UKIP member of parliament, Douglas Carswell told supporters.
Quoting Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the words of John Wycliffe, a 14th Century dissident translator of the bible into English, Carswell said he backed a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
“The governing can no longer presume to know what is right for the governed,” he said immediately after he was declared the winner. “Crony corporatism is not the free market. Cosy cartel politics is not meaningful democracy. Change is coming.”
There is little prospect for now of UKIP winning more than a half a dozen of 650 seats in a national election in May next year. But its success threatens to split the centre-right vote and chip away at the traditional left-wing vote too making it harder for any one party to win an outright majority.
That increases the likelihood of a hung parliament, another coalition government, and potential political instability in the world’s sixth largest economy.
The Chairman of Cameron’s Conservatives, Grant Shapps said UKIP’s success, if repeated next year, would hand victory to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
“This is an alarm clock moment. This is a stark message,” he told BBC radio. “If what has happened last night was repeated in 210 days at a general election and you saw Conservative become UKIP seats what you’d have is Ed Miliband in government.”
UKIP’s success is likely to raise pressure on Cameron to become more Eurosceptic, three years before a referendum on EU membership which he has promised to hold if re-elected.
Douglas Carswell, a Eurosceptic, defected from Cameron’s Conservatives in August, triggering Thursday’s Clacton vote. He switched allegiance because he said he doubted the prime minister’s determination to reform the EU.
Cameron has promised to try to renegotiate Britain’s EU relationship before offering voters an in/out membership referendum in 2017. But some of his own lawmakers are sceptical about his resolve to push for real change, viewing his promise as a tactical move to try to hold his divided party together.
With a population of 53,000, Clacton, once a thriving seaside resort, began to decline as Britons turned to cheap foreign package holidays in the 1980s. It now earns its keep from retirees and day trippers from London.