Many people don’t realize that the current situation in UK politics is similar to the situation in Canadian politics in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
We have an unpopular party in power with a long and storied history, a not very popular official opposition and a new party which is going third in the polls.
But then, Canadian politics in the 90’s could be described as a civil war between the Progressive Conservative and the Reform lasted more then 12 years.
It’s not that those two parties were not popular (and they both had a sizeable portion of the popular vote together), it’s just that they were divided which made election of MP difficult especially in certain regions.
The Liberal Party of Canada was so powerful in the early 2000’s, they some pundits were beginning to talk about a friendly dictorship.
And yes, the rest is history, but events could well had taken a different way.
An important thing is that both the PC and Reform had the same strengths and weakeness that both the Tories and the UKIP have in the UK.
Like the Tories, the former Progressive Conservatives had a storied history. However, like the former Reform Party (and this is what Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had been trying to work on), I do believe that the UKIP have a base among people who are not inclined into any traditionnal political party.
I hate the term populist, with the Reform Party had stunning victories (especially in Western Canada) with people who were voting Reform because they were sicked and tired of »old politics ».
Also, in Canada, a new term that have came along in the last few years is the »Tim Hortons voter » (which is a massively popular Canadian coffeshop chain selling donuts and sandwiches which is a quasi-part of the Canadian folklore). This is like the Canadian version of the Essex Man, except that a »Tim Hortons voter » could well be somebody living in Brampton with its parent born in Punjab, a plumber working in St. Catharines who had his small plumbing business, or a francophone living in Lévis, Roberval or Thetford Mines.
As a big difference with the steoreotype of the UK Conservatives, this »Tim Hortons » man could sometimes be considered working class, but he is somebody who usually wants to the best bang for his buck.
Anyway, class is not as big of a factor in political party support in Canada then in the UK.
This is why I think that even through the UKIP have a lot of potential among it’s younger base (with people who had genuine intellectual appeal), I am not sure what this could bring for the future except of having Britain becoming Labourland all over again.
The electoral system (it’s the same system both in the UK and in Canada) help parties who can squeeze their way into first place whatever their popular vote. Remember Labour winning a majority with something like 35% of the popular vote in 2005?
With this argument, Labour could well win a 1997-level landslide with 38% of the popular vote especially if the «second party» have something like 28% of the vote.
And I do believe in principles, but for people welling to put time and effort into a political party, it’s really deceiving to put all this effort only to have a strong popular when this support is not translated into seats.
This is why IDEAS are the real heritage to any political society, while not being associated to a specific political party. If people are going to a given party only because of the name or the colour of the party, better say that deception will come very fast!