Cultural Revolutions

Hating Your Own

Last May, an unnamed friend of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted referring to the Conservative Party’s base as “mad, swivel-eyed loons.”  This extraordinary outburst illustrates the extent of the rift between Cameron and a large section of his party.  Cameron and his progressive followers have never been a good fit for the Conservative Party’s traditional base.  Their dislike goes back to his emphasis on green energy when he first became leader in 2005.  Over time, tensions have focused on two key issues.  The first is the European Union: Many Conservatives believe Cameron cedes too much national sovereignty to Brussels.  The second is gay “marriage”: Cameron pushed this through despite majority opposition from his own party.

A growing number of Conservatives are expressing their frustration by defecting to the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), which was founded in 1993 to protest U.K. membership in the European Union.  Cameron referred to UKIP as “fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists” in 2006.  Nevertheless, UKIP has been gradually moving out of the fringes and into the mainstream.  In the local elections held last May, UKIP won a quarter of all the votes cast in precincts where it fielded candidates.  Half of those who voted UKIP identified themselves as former Conservatives.


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