Clacton by-election: Ukip's 'earthquake' may not prove to be as important as it seems

If the Tories win next year’s general election and deliver a referendum on EU membership, there will be no obvious point to Ukip’s continued existence

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Indy Politics

Though Nigel Farage talks of an earthquake in Clacton-on-Sea that will shake the political establishment, the UK Independence Party’s extraordinary victory may yet turn out to be one of those interesting events that were not quite as important as they seemed at the time.

The British system for electing MPs makes it extremely difficult for new entrants to create any substantial presence in the House of Commons. The last party to make a genuine breakthrough into big time national politics was Labour, almost a century ago.

Ukip has come a very long way since they ran their first candidate in a parliamentary by-election in Eastleigh 20 years ago. His name was Nigel Farage, by the way. They are now the most formidable fourth party to arise in British politics since a dozen Labour MPs broke ranks to set up the SDP in 1982. The SDP’s big selling point was that they were holding the political centre while Labour veered off to the outside left. As soon as Labour recovered its old self, the SDP became irrelevant.

Ukip is unique in being the only party committed to pulling out of the EU. However, if the Conservatives win next year’s general election and deliver a referendum on EU membership, whatever the outcome, afterwards there will be no obvious point to Ukip’s continued existence.

Mr Farage and Mr Carswell have scored a sensational victory, and every reason to be pleased with it, but they have not broken the mould of British politics, yet.

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