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United Kingdom Independence Party
The United Kingdom Independence Party (commonly known as UKIP, pronounced "you-kip") is a right-wing political party that aims at British withdrawal from the European Union. The current party leader is Roger Knapman, MEP for South West England. In the 1990s, Knapman was a Conservative MP and Whip, who lost his seat in the 1997 elections.
In the most recent European Parliament elections, the party's profile was raised substantially in April and May 2004 by the surprise candidacy of former Labour Party MP and chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk. However, in January 2005 Kilroy-Silk headed a breakaway movement which formed a new party, Veritas, led by himself and with a broadly similar political outlook.
UKIP has about thirty five local councillors, many of whom are defectors from other parties. In the 2004 elections it picked up two seats in the London Assembly (Damian Hockney and Peter Hulme-Cross), and 12 in the European Parliament.
Since then Robert Kilroy-Silk and both MLAs have defected to form a new political party, Veritas. Another MEP, Ashley Mote, who was elected as an MEP for South East England, had the UKIP whip removed on 15 July, 2004, because he had not informed them previously of an imminent court case involving housing benefit fraud.
The remaining MEPs are:
UKIP was founded in 1993, by Alan Sked and other members of the all-party Anti-Federalist League. The central aim of the party was to seek the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The new party attracted many from the anti-European wing of the Conservative Party, which was split on the European question after the pound was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 and the struggle over ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. UKIP candidates stood in the 1997 general election, but were overshadowed by James Goldsmith's Referendum Party. After the election, Alan Sked resigned the leadership and left the party which was, he said, 'doomed to remain on the political fringes'. However, Goldsmith's death soon after the election precipitated the dissolution of the Referendum Party, with a resulting influx of new UKIP supporters. The leadership election was won by millionaire businessman Michael Holmes , and in the 1999 elections to the European Parliament UKIP amazed commentators by picking up three seats and 7% of the vote. In that election, Nigel Farage (South East England), Jeffrey Titford (East of England), and Michael Holmes (South West England) were elected.
However, over the next few months there was a power struggle between the leader, Michael Holmes, and the party's National Executive Committee. This was partly due to Holmes making a speech which was perceived to call for greater powers for the European Parliament against the European Commission. In a stormy meeting, ordinary party members forced the resignation of both Holmes and the entire NEC. Holmes resigned from the party itself in March 2000. There was a legal battle when he tried to continue as an independent MEP until resigning from the European Parliament in December 2002, when he was replaced by Graham Booth, the second candidate on the UKIP list in South West England.
Jeffrey Titford was narrowly elected to the vacant leadership, and succeeded in healing many of the wounds left by the previous infighting. UKIP put up candidates in more than 420 seats in the 2001 general election, coming fourth in terms of votes cast (with 1.5%) but failing to win any representation at Westminster. It also failed to break through in Regional elections in Wales and Scotland despite the latter elections being held under Proportional Representation. This may be partly because the "National Question" is less focussed on European participation and more focussed on the continued link with the United Kingdom. In 2002 Titford stood down as party leader, but continued to sit as a UKIP MEP. He was replaced as leader by Roger Knapman.
In late 2004, reports in the mainstream UK press speculated on if and when former Labour Party MP and chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk would take control of the party. These reports were heightened by Kilroy-Silk's speech at the UKIP party conference on 2 October 2004, in which he called for the Conservative Party to be "killed-off" (following UKIP forcing the Conservatives into fourth place in Hartlepool). Interviewed by Channel 4, Kilroy-Silk did not deny having ambitions to lead the party, but underlined that Roger Knapman would lead it into the next general election. However, the next day, on Breakfast with Frost, he criticised Knapman's leadership. After further disagreement with the leadership, on 27 October, 2004 Kilroy-Silk resigned the UKIP whip in the European Parliament. Initially, he still remained a member, while seeking a bid for the party leadership. However, this was not successful, and Kilroy-Silk resigned completely from UKIP on January 20, 2005, calling it a "joke". Two weeks later, he founded his own party, Veritas, taking several UKIP members, including both London Assembly members, with him.
Although the UKIP's main raison d'Ítre is, without a doubt, the EU, it rejects the notion that it is a single-issue party. Its economic stance is largely similar to that of the opposition Conservative Party and that implemented by the ruling Labour Party since 1997, though it notes that it could offer both increased public spending and reduced taxation through ceasing to pay levies of £12.5bn per annum to the EU. It might then support Free Trade Agreements with the EU, NAFTA and the Commonwealth.
Although the majority of the British public are sceptical of the EU, the party has fared comparatively poorly at the polls until recently. This can be at least partially explained by the ostensibly Eurosceptic positioning of the Conservatives, who have retained support of potential UKIP voters. In any case, small political parties tend to fare badly under the first past the post electoral system.
UKIP's stated accusations against the EU are (a) that it is massively corrupt, (b) that it is undemocratic (they particularly resent the fact that European Commissioners, who are appointed by national governments rather than directly elected, have sole authority to initiate legislation in most policy areas), (c) that Britain's membership is extremely expensive and (d) that Britain's sovereignty is diluted by being part of a large bloc. While their opposition on grounds (a), (b) and (c) could in principle be removed by wholesale reform of the European Union, (d) is perceived as being so fundamental a problem that only complete withdrawal from the Union can address it. For this reason, the aim of British withdrawal from the EU is written into UKIP's constitution. One of UKIP's political goals is to break the pro-European consensus among the three established parties, and prevent the introduction of the euro and the adoption of a European constitution.
Some opponents have claimed that UKIP is a hardline Thatcherite party exploiting widespread Euroscepticism in Britain in an attempt to bring back characteristic Thatcherite policies such as dismantlement of the welfare state, elimination of legal restrictions on business, and an unquestioning alliance with the US. However, the policies outlined in the party's 2001 manifesto  suggest otherwise. UKIP does support free international trade and promises to make a 'bonfire' of 'inappropriate' EU regulations . However, it maintains a strong commitment to the welfare state and in particular to the National Health Service . UKIP does in general support continuing military cooperation with the USA through NATO  but said in 2002 that it could only support a US invasion of Iraq if there was a clear United Nations mandate for such action.
The UKIP is against the planned introduction of identity cards, believing them to be ineffective as a way of combatting fraud and terrorism, and an infringement of individual liberty . In December 2004 UKIP affiliated to the anti-ID card campaign, No2ID . Concern for civil liberties also led UKIP to oppose the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 , which gives additional powers to the UK Home Secretary in broadly defined "emergency situations". UKIP's Jeffrey Titford MEP condemned the bill as "totalitarian". 
UKIP's expectations were high before the European Parliament election, 2004, with a number of opinion polls – starting with one from yougov - showed them on course to beat the Liberal Democrats and pick up a dozen MEPs. These predictions proved accurate with UKIP winning 16.8% of the vote. There was a controversy over internet polls overestimating the UKIP vote, although many traditional face to face polls had underestimated the UKIP vote in the opposite direction. UKIP won seats in eight regions, and, taking votes from all three major political Parties, came second, ahead of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, in four regions: South West, South East, Eastern and East Midlands.
The party's profile was raised substantially in April and May 2004 by the surprise candidacy of former Labour Party MP and chat show host Robert Kilroy-Silk. Kilroy-Silk was sacked by the BBC in 2003 for writing a controversial article in a national newspaper. The article criticised decadence in the Arab world and its rulers,  and was claimed by third party commentators to be racist and ignorant. 
A number of other celebrities also pledged support to UKIP in this election, adding momentum to its campaign. These included the actress Joan Collins, actor Edward Fox, cricketer Geoff Boycott, and former racing champion Stirling Moss.
UKIP received assistance in coordinating its 2004 election campaign from Dick Morris, formerly Bill Clinton's campaign advisor who has since emerged as an advocate of US unilateralism and an opponent of the EU. 
In the local elections on June 10, 2004, UKIP won its first ever City council seats in Kingston-upon-Hull and Derby, where it now holds the balance of power between the potential control of Labour and Liberal Democrats/Conservatives. In London, an area where UKIP has previously polled badly, two UKIP candidates won seats in the London Assembly via the London-wide list. In the election for Mayor of London which was held on the same day, UKIP's candidate, the boxing promoter Frank Maloney, came fourth with 6.2% of the total vote. In the East Midlands region for elections to the European Parliament, UKIP came within a percentage point of being top of the poll.
The UKIP and the far right
UKIP's constitution contains an entrenched clause guaranteeing the party's support for a multicultural society, and party rules require all candidates to declare that they have no past or present links with far right organisations.
Despite its stated policies, some critics of the UKIP claim links between it and far-right groups. Aidan Rankin , co-author of the party's manifesto, was once a member of the Third Way, a "moderate" breakaway from the National Front (though he has since repudiated these views). Alistair McConnachie , a five-times UKIP candidate and National Executive member, was expelled from UKIP for being a Holocaust denier. Some other candidates were formerly members of the anti-immigration New Britain Party.
It has been a stated policy of the far-right British National Party (BNP) to "eliminate" UKIP as they perceive that too many potential BNP voters are attracted by UKIP addressing the issue of EU membership. The BNP has infiltrated UKIP in the past, notably in the cases of Mark Deavin, a UKIP national executive committee member who was exposed as a BNP agent in 1997  and John Brayshaw in 2004 . The aim appears simply to have been to damage UKIP .
New electoral support from across the political spectrum seems set to reduce further the importance of these historical links to the far-right.
Leaders of the UK Independence Party since 1993
- Dr Alan Sked 1993-1997
- Craig Mackinlay 1997 (acting leader)
- Michael Holmes 1997-2000 (MEP from 1999 on)
- Jeffrey Titford, MEP 2000-2002
- Roger Knapman, MEP 2002-
Eurosceptics in the European Parliament
In 2004, 37 MEPs from the UK, Poland, Denmark and Sweden founded a new European Parliament group called Independence and Democracy from the old EDD group. The main goals of this group are to reject the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe and to oppose further European integration. Some delegations within the group, including UKIP, advocate the complete withdrawal of their country from the EU.
The group's leaders are Nigel Farage of UKIP (10 MEPs), Jens Peter Bonde of Denmark, and Maciej Giertych of the League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin, LPR) (10 MEPs).
External links and references
- Official UKIP homepage
- Forum for discussing UKIP
- UKIP's MEPs explain their aims
- Press Release concerning Ashley Mote
- The Outsiders (Guardian special report on UKIP MEPs from 2001, when there were only two of them)
- UKIP Uncovered: What motivates the leaders of the United Kingdom Independence Party? — critical site by party member
- Who's who?: The Conservative right and anti-EU movement (Searchlight, January 2003)
- MayorWatch interview with Damian Hockney, leader of the UKIP group on the London Assembly.
- Don't be fooled: The UK Independence Party is not harmless (Johann Hari, The Independent, 26 May 2004)
- Escape from UKIP (Aidan Rankin, New Statesman 14th June 2004)
- There's something about UKIP (pamphlet by Labour MEP Richard Corbett, published by Britain in Europe)
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