Tory traitor Mark Reckless has today been sworn in as the second UKIP MP in the House of Commons, doubling their current representative presence and maintaining the momentum developed when they burst onto the scene in the Clacton by-election on the 9th October. Having accumulated 16,867 votes yesterday in comparison with the 13,947 gained by the fresh faced Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst, Reckless fortunately still cannot boast to hold the same electoral majority of roughly 10,000 which he acquired in 2010. But it is indeed sad when this is the only clear silver lining; the unavoidable truth being that what was once a Conservative bastion has so easily been swayed into voting for a party that in theory should never be threatening the integrity of the Parliamentary system in the way that it is.
I have always maintained, and will do until I am proved wrong, that UKIP shall never amount to much. People appear to have this grand expectation of them; they expect to see UKIP as the party to end the mainstream political system, to finally infiltrate Parliament in order to answer the whimsical demands of the British public – whatever they may be. They see Farage as a man of the people, not a political elitist like Cameron and Miliband; someone who really relates to their problems and desires. They will tell you that UKIP is the only party standing up for Britain in a hostile world full of immigrants and nasty European bureaucrats.
But the truth is they just cannot deliver. Thanks to our First Past the Post voting system, UKIP will probably never gain a Parliamentary majority and thus be able to form a ruling government. For a populist party like themselves, UKIP do not have the right mandate required of a party aiming to establish itself as one of longevity and political capability. The key issues of immigration and a withdrawal from the EU, whilst appealing to vast swathes of the population, are merely prevalent during times of economic hardship. As soon as austerity is kicked and we see an increase in the rapidity of growth, issues such as the NHS, criminality and education will once again take precedent over the fear induced issues upon which UKIP plays.
Even more reassuring is the fact that no matter how popular UKIP grow, they shall never overtake either of the old ruling parties in either votes or seats gained in the Commons. People often cite the downfall of the Liberals and the growth of Labour as an example of the ability of one party to knock the other of its perch. To even accept this as a possibility is fundamentally wrong. Consider the context out of which the Labour Party was born: The British working class as an electoral based, a huge proportion of the population, finally found themselves in 1900 with a party that was aligned to their needs, with Britain having never before had a truly socialist party. As it was the first of its kind Labour (or the Labour Representation Committee as it was known), instantly secured for itself the electoral support of vast swathes of the working class. Had this movement not coincided with the unprecedented implosion of the Liberals, having fragmented beyond repair over issues such as World War One, Irish Home Rule and women’s suffrage; it is unlikely that Labour would have established itself so rapidly as one of the dominant parties. UKIP thankfully has no such luck. They fail to represent a new and individual ideology which appeals to enough voters to rapidly gain Parliamentary support and neither Labour nor the Conservatives look likely to collapse any time soon.
But the fact that they cannot win an election outright, although extremely comforting, should not belittle the fact that UKIP look set to win a good handful of seats next year in the Commons. With the election looking set to be a tight one, it could well be the case that should Parliament be hung UKIP could end up playing the decider, much as the Liberal Democrats did in 2010. It would be nice to believe that integrity in politics still exists. Yet as a cynic, I find it hard to even hope for the possibility that if this were the case, either the Conservatives or god forbid Labour would form a minority Government and battle it out rather than accommodate UKIP and undermine any shred of sincerity they once had.
Predictions as to how many seats UKIP should expect to gain vary dramatically; some suggest fewer than ten, others over thirty. On this day in the wake of another convincing victory however, conservative estimates forever seem more naive.