A quick guide to UKIP

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is a right-wing party founded in 1993 out of the desire to gain independence from the European Union. It currently has one MP in Westminster and three representatives in the House of Lords and is the largest UK party in the EU with twenty-four MEPs.

A brief history

The party was first founded by Alan Sked – a professor and academic – in response to the Maastricht Treaty, which in 1991 saw the birth of the European Union. It drew early support from members of the Conservative Party who were disappointed by their party’s stance on greater European integration.

Following an unsuccessful 1997 General Election where UKIP was overshadowed by another anti-EU party called the Referendum Party, Alan Sked stepped down as leader, citing his fear that the party was being taken over by right-wing extremists.

The Referendum Party soon after dissolved, further bolstering UKIP’s membership under the leadership of millionaire businessman Michael Holmes. Holmes alongside Nigel Farage and one other became the first UKIP Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in 1999. However, the party remained unsuccessful in attempts to gain seats in Westminster as well as in Scotland and Wales.

Following various power struggles among the party’s leadership involving former Labour MP and television chat-show host Robert Kilroy-Silk, the party eventually came under the leadership of Nigel Farage in 2006.

Over the next few years UKIP continued to gain ground in Europe, becoming the second largest UK party in the EU in 2009 with 16.5% of the vote and 13 MEPs. The following year, however, the party again failed to gain a single seat in Westminster, although it did secure the largest number of votes for a party without a seat.

Following the 2010 General Election, UKIP’s rating in opinion polls has continued to increase and it witnessed huge successes in European and local elections in 2013 and 2014.

Following two defections from the Conservative Party in 2014, UKIP briefly had two MPs in Westminster. However, after the 2015 General Election, despite the share of the national vote rising to 13% only Douglas Carswell held onto his seat as the sole UKIP MP. Despite this, the growing rise in UKIP's popularity, arguably led to the UK holding an in-out referendum on its membership of the EU in June 2016, a vote which led to the UK opting to leave.

What does the Party stand for?

Farage infamously described UKIP’s 2010 election manifesto, in which they outlined their proposals for the country, as ‘drivel’ and ‘nonsense’. As a result, there has been a concerted effort on behalf of UKIP to address this apparent shortcoming, with the party seeking more credibility through the development of workable policies.

The party’s primary focus was on independence from the European Union. Withdrawal from the EU, UKIP believes, would result in millions of pounds no longer being paid in membership. Also, a ‘free-trade agreement’ would aim to be negotiated that would allow Britain to continue benefiting from trade with members of the EU as well as with the rest of the world.

Furthermore, without being tied to the EU, Britain, UKIP believes, would be able to ‘take back control of its borders’. Immigration would be controlled with work permits granted only to fill gaps in the jobs market. For those that are permitted, they would be required to have a job as well as accommodation, health insurance, and be able to speak English.

Christian involvement in UKIP

Some Christians of a conservative persuasion have been drawn to UKIP due to its support of tradition. They see the party’s defence of British values - rooted in Christianity and democracy - as being admirable. In addition, the party’s backing of individual responsibility and strong community cohesion coupled with a distrust of large state structures has further drawn people towards the party.

Some Christians have also been attracted to UKIP out of a distrust and disillusionment for the current political status-quo. They argue that the current main parties are giving in to liberal secularism (meaning the separation of culture and politics from religion) that is arguably dominating the political arena and not allowing for Christian values to still set the British agenda.  

Furthermore, some have been attracted by the party’s stance on same-sex marriage, with the openly gay David Coburn of UKIP stating back in 2012 that the party supported civil partnership but was concerned by same-sex marriage as it could lead to faith groups being forced to perform services against their will.

Party's website: www.ukip.org

For further reading see Christians for UKIP? A Plausible Ethical Perspective.

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