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UKIP: the British Tea Party set to cause a 'political earthquake'

brussels bureau

UKIP: the British Tea Party set to cause a 'political earthquake'


UKIP leader Nigel Farage said recently that his party wants to cause “a political earthquake” in this May’s European elections.

A poll by the YouGov consultancy published on Monday said that the eurosceptic movement could finish top on May 22.

The survey said they enjoyed a 31 percent approval rating, with Labour a distant second on 25 percent.

European parliament elections

Farage has been criss-crossing the UK to enlist voters in what he calls ‘The People’s Army’.

The party is chasing votes a world away from its traditional southern English heartland.

Last month, the UKIP roadshow stopped by England’s third city to deliver its tough messages on immigration and make yet more calls for Britain to leave the European Union.

Euronews went to Manchester to find out who is voting for UKIP, and whether they really are just the ‘Conservative Party-in-Exile’.

Manchester was once the heartbeat of Britain’s industrial revolution.

Its factories and working men’s clubs have long closed their doors to be replaced by luxury apartments and fancy wine bars.

Unemployment stands at around 8 percent here, and more than 10,000 families in the Manchester area lost their homes in 2012.

It might explain why UKIP’s appeal for stricter immigration controls resonates with some voters.

They tend to be older, white and working-class.

The party finished second in a recent by-election in Wythenshawe and Sale, a constituency just outside Manchester.

Farage’s call to close Britain’s doors to unskilled migrants resonates with some voters – mainly older, white working-class people.

“We shouldn’t be run by people in Brussels. We should our own say about our own country. And the immigration, well, it’s just too much over the top,” said Bernard, a taxi driver from Stockport.

“There’s young people in this country that needs jobs. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it? I don’t mind a few people coming into the country but not when you’re swamped with it,” said one man, a Wythenshawe resident who refused to give his name.

UKIP’s John Bickley came second in that February by-election in Wythenshawe and Sale.

Having previously voted for both Labour and the Conservatives, Bickley says British people are turned off by so-called ‘career politicians’.

“I look at the front bench of the Labour party and the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. And I think: have any of you guys ever had a real job?,” Bickley told Euronews.

“Do you actually understand what is to pay the bills at the end of each month. These people just cannot connect with the voters, I think, in most cases.”

But so what does the average UKIP voter look like? Dr Rob Ford of the University of Manchester co-authored the first in-depth academic study of the party.

He, along with Matthew Goodwin from the University of Nottingham, analysed the views of more than 100,000 British voters.

They also interviewed more than 6,000 UKIP supporters.

“This is very much a working-class revolt. These are older, white, working-class men. They tend to be very disaffected with politics. They tend naturally to be anti-EU, but also anti-immigration,” said Ford.

UKIP activists do tend to be disaffected Conservatives and so if you go and interview activists and you go to the conferences, you think: “Oh look at this. It’s the Conservative Party in exile.”

“But the people who are actually marking UKIP on the ballot boxes, the people out there in the electorate are a very different group. “

Ford and Goodwin’s study found that some 30 percent of British voters hold ‘UKIP-friendly’ views: they oppose the EU; they are hostile towards immigration and they are dissatisfied with the country’s political class.

And it seems UKIP have the Labour Party running scared. Euronews tried to contact eight Labour politicians in the Manchester area.

But Afzal Khan, a candidate for the European Parliament, agreed to speak to us.

The one-time bus driver turned former Lord Mayor of Manchester says his party will see off UKIP’s challenge.

“I think you can talk about all the polls, academic research as much you like. The bottom line is that no long ago we had an election here in Manchester, in Wythenshawe, and we actually increased our majority and they (UKIP) were a very poor second,” Khan explained.

“We are the ones who will be providing the solutions, we know the Tory government is failing the people of the northwest and we know that UKIP has got no solution whatsoever.”

Farage and UKIP have already rocked Britain’s political establishment.

But the big question remains: can the party keep the momentum going and win seats in the British parliament at next year’s general election?

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

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brussels bureau