New British poll gives UKIP lead in EU election

Nigel Farage. European Parliament, 2011. [EP/Flickr]

A new poll suggests that the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) will beat mainstream parties in the upcoming European elections, despite leading a ‘racist’ campaign.

 The YouGov poll showed the party has overtaken Labour on voting intentions, with 31% up from 23% in March. Labour have consistently polled first. However, they now move into second position on 28%, down from 32% over the same period.

The Conservatives trail behind with 19%, down from 24%, according to the poll.

Last week, UKIP launched its campaign for the EU elections with posters slammed by opponents as “racist”, fear-mongering and inaccurate.

One of the four posters depicts a construction worker sitting on a sidewalk and begging for money, accompanied by the text “EU policy at work – British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour.”

Another poster states that “26 million people in Europe are looking for work – and whose job are they after?”

A third poster,  depicting a torn UK flag with an EU flag underneath, says “Who really runs this country? 76% of our laws are now made in Brussels.”

The fourth poster depicts passengers sitting inside a London bus, with the text “Your daily grind…”, continued onto another photo, on the right, with a gentleman sitting in the back seat of a limousine, with an EU flag, stating “…funds his celebrity lifestyle”. “The UK pays £55 million a day to the EU and its Eurocrats,” the message concludes.

Over the weekend, William Henwood, a local election candidate for the party in Enfield, north London, had said Lenny Henry should emigrate to a “black country” after the comedian and actor suggested ethnic minorities were poorly represented on British television.

Despite all this, UKIP seems immune to criticism, and mainstream politicians are finding it difficult to acknowledge the gains being made by the extremist party in the polls.

Peter Hain, the former Labour cabinet minister, said UKIP seemed to be resistant to attacks, and that he expected the party to beat Labour, the Guardian reported.

Lord Tebbit, the former Tory chairman, also said he expected UKIP to make history, by becoming the first party other than Labour or the Conservatives to win a UK-wide election since the First World War.

Tebbit said his party was still paying the price for David Cameron’s decision to brand UKIP supporters “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” eight years ago.

Hain said the mainstream political parties had to recognise that UKIP’s success was symptomatic of a wider loss of trust in politics. “The political class needs to wake up, because UKIP are capitalising on the big anti-politics sentiment that is out there,” he told the Guardian.

“Despite the fact that their candidates have blamed flooding on gay marriage, called women sluts, and expressed openly racist and Islamophobic prejudice – some really nasty stuff – and Nigel Farage has been accused of all sorts of allegations, all of it just seems to wash off, just like water off a duck’s back, because they are the expression of a deep antagonism to the political class.

“It is really disturbing that they seem to have developed an immunity to the truth. It’s for that reason that I expect them to be in the lead on 22 May.”

His analysis was backed by Matthew Goodwin, an associate professor of politics at Nottingham University and co-author of a new book about UKIP, Revolt on the Right. He said that, until recently, he had expected UKIP to come second in the European elections, but that he had changed his mind.

The eurozone debt crisis has rekindled an anti-European mood in Britain and emboldened politicians to talk of clawing back powers from Brussels, or even leaving the bloc altogether.

British Eurosceptics, who see the EU as an oppressive, wasteful superstate that threatens Britain's sovereignty, want a referendum on whether to stay in the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron opposes a straight "in or out" question but has hinted he would support a national vote on a renegotiated British role.

Ranging from far-right to far-left and everything in between, eurosceptic parties are present in all European countries. They do not all advocate for/against the same things, ranging from the single currency and the inner-workings of the EU institutions, to EU enlargement and integration.

Deutsche Bank’s recent study shows that eurosceptic parties could have an impact on national parties, and a limited rebound effect on the European level. 

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