UKIP

With Success Comes Conflict for U.K. Independence Party

|

Flickr/Euro Realist Newsletter

The U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) is in prime position to win its second seat in the House of Commons, with the Rochester and Strood by-election set to take place Thursday. This could be a significant victory for UKIP, but it comes at a time of increasing discord between the left and right—or populist and libertarian-leaning—wings of the party.

The latest controversy surrounds the party's economic spokesman, Member of the European Parliament Patrick O'Flynn. O'Flynn has angered libertarian-leaning members of UKIP by vocally supporting increased taxes and opposing some of the party's free market policies­, culminating in a move to oust him from his position as economic spokesman. Breitbart London reports:

Senior members of UKIP are campaigning behind the scenes to have Patrick O'Flynn MEP removed as economic spokesman after his appearance on the BBC's Newsnight programme last Monday night. In the interview O'Flynn called for higher taxes on business, having previously called for a tax on the turnover of companies so they would pay even if they did not make a profit.

Political intrigue can be found in all political parties, but this attempted ouster is the symptom of a much larger divide within UKIP—a conflict The Daily Telegraph has described as being "far deeper and more divisive than anything currently going on inside the Conservative Party, or even in Ed Miliband's Labour Party."

The roots of this division lie in UKIP's attempt to represent two conflicting strains of thought. On the one hand, UKIP gained most of its initial support from disaffected members of the Conservative Party. These supporters look back at Thatcher for inspiration and support more libertarian-leaning policies, especially when it comes to economics. In conflict with this group are people who were attracted to UKIP by the party's more populist policies, such as its opposition to large scale immigration. The populists, who represent a growing proportion of the party base, are far less interested in free market reforms.

These two perspectives were able to coexist in relative harmony when UKIP was focused predominantly on opposing the European Union. But tensions have increased as the party has slowly abandoned its libertarianism in pursuit of domestic electoral success.

The problem for the libertarian-leaning section of UKIP is that the electoral strategy is working, and the makeup of the party is changing as a result. YouGov's Peter Kellner recently highlighted UKIP's changing demographics in The Guardian, writing:

Ukip is now building support in traditional working-class Labour areas. Initially, Ukip was a far greater threat to the Tories, for it took nine votes from the Conservatives for every vote it took from Labour. Since early last year, for every nine votes it has taken from the Tories it has taken six from Labour.

The growing proportion of disaffected Labour voters is likely to further weaken the influence of libertarian-leaning UKIP members. This is not just because the free marketeers will be increasingly outnumbered, but also because the populists' success will make UKIP politicians wary of taking hard line stances that might alienate their new supporters.

UKIP's pivot toward populism will likely continue regardless of whether O'Flynn remains the party's economic spokesman. To reverse course now would represent a monumental change in strategy, and an electorally risky one. It seems this is a battle libertarian-leaning UKIPers are destined to lose.

NEXT: House Democrats Ready to Blame Pelosi, Maybe, for Losses—Just Don't Blame the Message

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In the interview O’Flynn called for higher taxes on business, having previously called for a tax on the turnover of companies so they would pay even if they did not make a profit.

    Look, what you guys have to realize is they’re British. They can’t help it.

    1. What’s “turnover”?

  2. I read “UK” in the headline as “Kentucky”, as in “University of”. And I’m thinking, “I didn’t know Kentucky had a third party making waves. I’d better read this.”

    And I pictured SugarFree being deeply involved as a Svengali behind the scenes, directing traffic and maneuvering the frontmen whilst entertaining the troops with Warty rape porn during quiet moments.

    And I started reading. And it’s just Great Britain bullshititics. My disappointment is utter.

    *wanders off, shattered*

    1. The U of Kentucky was only founded in 1865.

      The Acts of Union creating the United Kingdom were passed in 1800.

      U of K has to change it’s initials.

      1. Fuck the Brits. They got WWF. We’ll take UK.

        1. I’m not sure that’s how it works.

          And I’m not sure why anyone would think Kentucky when you see UK. Is it a football thing?

          1. More likely basketball or wrestling.

  3. Is there such a thing as a real libertarian Brit? I’d love to meet him/her!

    1. I was until I became a yank.

      1. Yeah yeah, once a British Subject, always a British Subject.

        1. Pistols at dawn!

          1. My mother was British. I get to say anything I want about the British. I get a free pass. Just like black people get a free pass to use the N-word.

            1. My grandfather was 1/8th N-word. How dare you?

              1. There’s nothing wrong with being even partially Norwegian.

                1. The Norwegian immigration authorities wouldn’t let me in. They excercise the “One Drop” rule, wherein if even one drop of your blood is of Norwegian or European origin, they don’t let you in.

      2. You can’t become a Yankee. You have to be born that way. Part of the naturalization process should be making sure you never use “Yank” to generically refer to Americans. It’s bad enough when southerners think it refers generally to people not from the south.

        1. Well personally I like the word, but since my favorite part of the US is the South maybe I’ll have to reconsider.

    2. Actually there was that guy who was (I think) the first governor of British-controlled Hong Kong. IIRC, he actually forbade the government from keeping economic statistics because he knew it would be a pathway to abuse. He knew anything profitable would just be raided by greedy government officials.

      It’s been years… I’ll have to google it.

      1. correct, Chris Patton.

      2. John James Cowperthwaite

        1. I believe this is the correct answer.

      3. Was he an anti-prohibitionist? Did he believe an armed populace was a healthy thing?

        His Wikipedia entry touts his expansion of Hong Kong’s welfare state.

        Again, I’d love to meet an actual British libertarian. Believing in free markets is only one component.

        1. (by “his”, I mean Chris PattEn)

          1. Not sure now if it was PattEN who didn’t keep records, know it was one of the governors.

        2. Hey, I just gave you someone who came as close as it gets when you hail from across the pond. Again, you have to tone down your expectations when dealing with the British.

          1. “As close as it gets” isn’t what I’m getting at. Is there one single person in all of Old Blighty that believes in free markets, drugs, whores, guns, and general self-ownershippy-type of stuff? Or is it always “tempered” by years and years of subjugation to the State?

            1. Hayek had British citizenship? Herbert Spencer maybe? Chris Tame? Of course all these people are dead.

            2. I married a Dutch gal and my in-laws must be the only libertarians in the entire country of 20ish million people. I really don’t think that’s too much of an exaggeration either.

        3. Believing in free markets is only one component.

          “Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

        4. I agree, the whole common interest thing between the UK and the US notwithstanding, there are fundamental cultural differences. It’s basically taken for granted in the UK that the government is really only limited in what it can get away with. There isn’t really anything equivalent to the US Bill of Rights in the UK. Example… free speech, it doesn’t exist, you can be jailed and fined for an edgy tweet that upsets someone.

          1. The US government is also only limited to what it can get away with. The advantage of the existence of the Bill of Rights is that it slows the erosion of the cultural value of ‘free speech’ et cetera.

            The Bill of Rights wouldn’t be enforced at all if a critical mass of people didn’t place a high value on the rights it codifies. Otherwise we could pass a law making it illegal for the government to break the law and the problem of big government would be solved.

            Brits used to give a shit about their common law and the various rights of Englishmen but those days are past.

            1. Think you’re wrong about the First Amendment. Legally, politically and culturally it’s in good shape. Even the Second Amendment, after some tough years, has made a comeback.

              1. How am I wrong then? My argument is that it’s in as “good [a] shape” as it is because it’s jurisdiction is populated by people who place a strong cultural value on those rights. The law itself means nothing without a political culture that values whatever is being codified.

                Transplant the Bill of Rights to Libya and watch how the proper configuration of laws means nothing in the safeguarding of the rights it codifies.

                1. Wrong in the sense that it has, in recent years, survived some tough (to the appearance of some anyway) legal challenges.

                  1. Maybe I would strike “politically” from the above list since if the rot was to appear it would almost certainly manifest itself from that locus.

                  2. That’s not really the issue. Would it survive “legal challenges” in Britain? Iran? Congo? I doubt it in each of those cases. The law itself is toothless without a critical mass of cultural support. I was responding to this:

                    It’s basically taken for granted in the UK that the government is really only limited in what it can get away with. There isn’t really anything equivalent to the US Bill of Rights in the UK.

                    And there isn’t such a legal instrument in most countries. But it’s not what separates the US’s ostensible respect for rights from everyone else. It’s the culture of respect for those particular rights that begets whatever legal codes implemented to ‘secure’ them.

                    1. In the UK there is definitely a feeling that its the “state” of course it can coerce you for the common good etc., there is no legal recourse to a Bill of Rights for redress. Also in the UK culturally there is a much more attenuated sense of individualism as opposed to being part of a collective. But see me post below, the US zeigeist is a product of its unique Constitution.

                    2. In the UK there is definitely a feeling that its the “state” of course it can coerce you for the common good etc., there is no legal recourse to a Bill of Rights for redress.

                      Which is sad because England and the Netherlands are both historical bastions of freedom and both have basically abandoned those traditions. However I don’t think the cultural traditions enshrined in common law or the Magna Carta created that respect for freedom as much as those instruments were an outgrowth of it. But as that respect faded culturally, the aforementioned instruments became largely powerless.

                    3. Yeah, that is depressing, there has been significant cultural degradation, decadence etc in the nations that gave birth to the thinkers that influences the founding fathers. And, if you point this out in certain types of company in the UK you get an interesting reaction (I doubt I will ever be invited back for further discussion).

                    4. I’m fully aware of what most Europeans, especially the continentals, think about diverging opinions. It’s despicable.

          2. you can be jailed and fined for an edgy tweet that upsets someone

            Give it time – the US will be there soon.

            1. I actually don’t see that happening, not saying it couldn’t, but it’s that cultural difference thing. Support here for the First Amendment seems to me to be broad and deep and for most americans is something of great value.

              1. Yeah, I think that enough people really do believe that even offensive speech that they don’t like needs to be protected that we won’t go down that road. With notable exceptions of commercial and electioneering speech, the courts have been pretty absolute on free speech/press and that seems like a trend that will continue. Let’s hope so.

                1. There shouldn’t be any “notable exceptions” at all. That is how rights are lost.

                  1. Whenever I hear someone say (as I often have in the UK), “I believe in freedom of expression but…” I know they don’t.

                2. Yeah, I think that enough people really do believe that even offensive speech that they don’t like needs to be protected that we won’t go down that road. With notable exceptions of commercial and electioneering speech, the courts have been pretty absolute on free speech/press and that seems like a trend that will continue. Let’s hope so.

                  Except for obscenity, which is legally speaking offensive speech about sex. And offensive speech over public airwaves. And offensive speech that reaches the eyes and ears of people under 18.

                  See the Congressional hearings that created warning labels, the ESRB, likewise MPAA (so-called self-regulation which are implicitly enforced by the government via the FTC) and Hay’s Code, Comics Code in the past.

                  In addition, if an act that would otherwise be a minor crime like a misdemeanor is associated with any “hateful” or discriminatory speech you’ve made, it’s automatically escalated into felony–hate crime or bias intimidation.

                  There’s a general sense of free speech I guess.. but when you analyze it there are so many freaking exceptions for various little things, especially for localities (speech displayed outside a shop, on billboards, or on private property) in addition to commercial speech restrictions, which themselves are also numerous and intertwined with non-commercial speech.

              2. I actually don’t see that happening, not saying it couldn’t, but it’s that cultural difference thing. Support here for the First Amendment seems to me to be broad and deep and for most americans is something of great value.

                And see here with this line you don’t seem to disagree with me at all. You clearly cited cultural peculiarity.

                1. I agree, The US really is, from a global perspective, totally unique and that I think is a result of its philosophical and political origins that were incorporated into the Constitution. But the US cultural zeitgeist is largely a result of that and long may it be so.

                  1. I would certainly say that the Constitution slows the unceasing erosion of the rights it codifies. But I don’t think the Constitution itself is to thank for the very existence of that cultural respect for freedom. Otherwise we could have reformed post-Saddam Iraq or post-Gaddafi Libya by simply exporting the US Constitution.

                    1. Too much pre-existing cultural baggage in those countries and baggage of a type diametrically opposed to the principals of individual liberty, natural rights etc.

      4. He changed the world.

    3. Is there such a thing as a real libertarian Brit?

      Most of these folks are.

  4. It’s too bad that the Liberal Party merged with the Social Democrats. IMO, waiting just a little bit longer for UKIP to come on the scene would have made for a better merger, and a larger base of classical liberals to control economic policy.

    That said, I don’t see any reason for undue pessimism yet — UKIP is still by far the most libertarian of UK’s parties, and a major country leaving the EU would be a major blow for liberty (especially if the free trade pacts between European states are preserved).

    1. The Europe disagreement would be too much for them to merge. It’s like comparing the FDP and the AfD in Germany.

      1. This is true.

    2. I used to care a lot about Britain leaving the EU (I wouldn’t be surprised if the UK referendum were to go the other way though). Now I think the difference between the UK in the EU or out of the EU is the same as the difference as post-WW2 Yugoslavia as part of the USSR or ‘independent’ and under the thumb of Tito. Just an awful place. No hope.

  5. A major blow for liberty?? The EU is a bureaucratic monster.

    1. I meant it more in the positive sense; I agree with you RE: the EU.

  6. Populist movements always become anti-capitalist eventually.

    1. Also true of intellectual movements, or any other political movement which breaks into the mainstream.

      1. And only true to a degree. I would not call the Tea Party movement “anti-capitalist” in the traditional sense of the term as meaning the endorsement of alternative economic systems.

      2. Also true of intellectual movements, or any other political movement which breaks into the mainstream.

        Well I’m not so sure. If you said “academic movements” I would agree with you, as academia has historically been a pillar upon which the weight of statist lies and contradictions are supported.

        Conversely you have movements like the anarcho-capitalists and various voluntarist movements and indeed even minarchist libertarianism exist almost entirely as bourgeois intellectual philosophies.

        1. anarcho-capitalists and various voluntarist movements and indeed even minarchist libertarianism exist almost entirely as bourgeois intellectual philosophies.

          And they are all almost certain not to enter the political mainstream.

          1. Sadly so. But don’t see those aforementioned intellectual groups from going anti-capitalism if they did go mainstream. The reason it’s so unlikely for those groups to succeed in the forseeable future is because the ‘mainstream’ needs to be drastically changed for the better.

  7. Britain is hopeless. If you’re in Britain, just leave. There is nothing you can do except wait for Britain to either be destroyed or changed by mass immigration into something better. That is Britain’s only hope: mass immigration.

    1. That is Britain’s only hope: mass immigration.

      How would the Islamic Shithole of Britain be an improvement or anything other than a tragedy?

      1. Nowhere to go but up!

    2. This via The Daily Mail and National Review, so the usual caveats apply, but still:

      http://www.nationalreview.com/…..-katherine

  8. my roomate’s step-aunt makes $64 hourly on the internet . She has been fired for nine months but last month her income was $19433 just working on the internet for a few hours. check this ….

    ?????? http://www.payinsider.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.