UKIP was founded as cross-party pressure group the Anti-Federalist League in 1991 and become a political party in 1993. It has grown steadily more popular during the 2000s, rising to claim an average of 12% in the polls during recent months. It has numerous Councillors and 9 MEPs, but has never had an elected MP.
UKIP is, economically, extremely liberal. The party advocates a flat rate of income tax (31%), cuts to corporation tax and the abolition of inheritance tax. They also call for £77 billion of further cuts to public expenditure, though they have been heavily criticised for what the Times has alleged is a £120 billion hole in their spending plans.
UKIP call themselves libertarian but they are in reality socially highly conservative. The party is highly committed to traditional institutions, opposing same-sex marriage and wanting the return of oaths of allegiance to the Monarch.The party wants to scrap the HRA and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, thereby removing the authority of the European Court of Human Rights. They do, however, support the decriminalisation of drugs.
UKIP’s welfare policy is mixed. It calls for a severe cut in the social security bill and a cut in health spending on bureaucracy, but wants to use the money saved to introduce free dental and optical care. They are also in favour of further localisation of the health service.
UKIP foreign policy is isolationist. While generally pro-American, the party is anti-interventionist and is opposed to overseas aid spending. They are focused on their main goal – the party’s original raison d’etre – of withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, which they feel is too expensive and has too much power over UK legislation. They are committed to NATO and, especially, the Commonwealth but are uncertain over the future of Trident. They also present themselves as anti-mass immigration, though they are in favour of managed immigration of skilled workers with EU states on a level playing field with the rest of the world.
UKIP is highly climate change-sceptic and has advocated banning climate change film An Inconvenient Truth in schools and ending government subsidies of wind farms, which they consider an eyesore. They are pro-fracking but are opposed to HS2, mainly on economic grounds.
The party leader is Nigel Farage, the deputy leader is Paul Nuttall and the executive chairman is Steve Crowther. Other notable UKIP members include Director of Communications Patrick O’Flynn, now-independent MEP Godfrey Bloom and failed Eastleigh by-election candidate Diane James.The party won 3.1% of the vote but none of the seats in the House of Commons at the last General Election and has around 35,000 members.