UK In­de­pen­dence Party loses sole MP

New Straits Times - - World -

LONDONE: The short and happy life of the United King­dom In­de­pen­dence Party, or Ukip, may be com­ing to a close after its only mem­ber of par­lia­ment, Dou­glas Car­swell, quit the party on Satur­day to be­come an in­de­pen­dent.

Car­swell, 45, was con­sid­ered a great catch, de­fect­ing to Ukip from the Con­ser­va­tive Party in Au­gust 2014 be­cause, he said, he be­lieved that the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment was am­biva­lent about hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum to leave the Euro­pean Union.

In a mes­sage on his web­site on Satur­day, how­ever, Car­swell told his con­stituents: “Like many of you, I switched to Ukip be­cause I des­per­ately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be cer­tain that that is go­ing to hap­pen, I have de­cided that I will be leav­ing Ukip.”

The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, un­der Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, is set to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 to carry out Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union, known as Brexit, un­der­min­ing UKIP’s rai­son d’être.

Ukip — right wing, pop­ulist and anti-Euro­pean Union — re­ceived 12.6 per cent of the na­tional vote in the 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, but it was squeezed, as all third par­ties are, by Bri­tain’s first-past-the-post sys­tem.

The party re­tained only Car­swell’s seat.

But the threat of Ukip to Con­ser­va­tive seats helped push the prime min­is­ter at the time, David Cameron, into call­ing the ref­er­en­dum last June. Cameron wanted Bri­tain to re­main in the bloc, but Bri­tons voted to leave, 52 per cent to 48 per cent, push­ing him to quit pol­i­tics.

It was a great vic­tory for Ukip, its leader at the time, Nigel Farage, and its fi­nancier, Ar­ron Banks.

With many Labour Party vot­ers ig­nor­ing the un­en­thu­si­as­tic ad­vice of the party’s far-left leader, Jeremy Cor­byn, to re­main, it seemed that Ukip had a clear path to a fu­ture beyond the ref­er­en­dum among work­ing-class vot­ers, es­pe­cially in Eng­land.

But the party, which dates to the 1990s, has al­ways been a sham­bles. Farage quit as leader; his re­place­ment, Paul Nut­tall, re­cently lost a by-elec­tion; and Banks spoke of found­ing a re­place­ment party or move­ment.

On Wed­nes­day, May plans to for­mally no­tify the bloc that Bri­tain will quit, be­gin­ning di­vorce ne­go­ti­a­tions that may run for two years. AFP

Nigel Farage (left), leader of the UK In­de­pen­dence Party, and his party’s only mem­ber of par­lia­ment, Dou­glas Car­swell, in 2015. AP

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