One of the basic political problems of today is the increasing tendency of political leaders to ignore the views of those who elected them. Across the board, political leaders advance the interests of the wealthy elites who bankroll their campaigns and feather their nests after they leave politics, rather than the interests of the people who voted for them. This is why Republicans in Congress are lining up to give President Obama unilateral authority to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership, even though they ran campaigns complaining that Obama had too much power. This problem is especially acute in “mainstream” conservative parties, in part because such parties often win elections by dwelling on the defects of the other side rather than any merits of their own.
Such an election just took place in Britain, where David Cameron’s Conservatives increased their number of seats in Parliament after urging voters to consider the prospect of a Labour government beholden to the Scottish National Party. Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman of the United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, told the BBC last night that this prospect caused a number of voters who agreed with UKIP on the issues to vote for the Tories. Despite such fears, UKIP increased its share of the vote from 3.1% in 2010 to 12.6% last night. UKIP won 14.1% of the vote in England and 13.6% in Wales, and garnered 3,881,139 votes in the whole United Kingdom, more votes than any party other than the Conservatives or Labour.
But because of Britain’s first past the post electoral system, UKIP won only one seat in Parliament and its leader, the engaging and articulate Nigel Farage, finished second to the Conservative candidate in the constituency he ran in. Which is a shame, because Farage understands the problem posed by unresponsive politicians and center-right parties that win because of the defects of their opponents. This morning, Farage stated that he was confident UKIP’s voters would remain loyal to the party, because “they’re voting for us not because they think we’re slightly less worse than someone else. They’re voting for us because they believe in us.” Farage also said that, in the future, UKIP would be “campaigning not just to get our country back from Brussels, not just to control immigration sensibly . . . but [as a party] that actually wants to see a fairer society that helps those who are out there working hard and trying their best to have a better life and an electoral system that actually engages people and gets them thinking that when they vote they might actually get a government and a Parliament that is representative of their views.” (For those interested in hearing more of Farage’s views, here is a link to a lengthy Daily Caller interview of him).
Farage may not be the one leading such future campaigns, though. He had told reporters that he would resign as leader of UKIP if he did not get elected to Parliament, and so he has. He did tell reporters that he might decide to enter the contest to choose the next leader of UKIP in September, but even if he remains out of politics, it is likely that UKIP will continue to emphasize the same themes Farage has. After all, they quadrupled their vote under his leadership.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.