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UKIP

June 16th, 2004

The success of Eurosceptic parties like the UK Independence Party, which advocates British withdrawal from the EU, has contributed to generally negative coverage of the recent EU Parliamentary elections. Although I disagree with UKIP, I think its success is a good thing.

From my perspective as a sympathetic outside observer, the biggest single problem with the EU is the “democratic deficit” arising from the fact that the European Parliament isn’t really responsible to voters, though it is no longer a rubber-stamp for unelected officials. Most voters vote for national parties on the basis of national issues.

By contrast, the UKIP is running on a specifically European issue, and putting forward a legitimate viewpoint, though apparently one held by only a minority of British voters. It’s up to those who disagree to respond in kind.

One obvious response would be for candidates to run under the banner of their EU Parliamentary grouping instead of, or in addition to, that of their national party. The obvious objections to this course of action don’t, in my view stand up to scrutiny.

The first is that these parties would be unfamiliar to voters. But many European countries have experienced the rise of new parties at the national level or the renaming of existing ones without the electors collapsing into a state of confusion.

The second, related objection, is that this course of action would alienate core supporters. No doubt there are some supporters of, say, the German Social Democratic Party who would be less inclined to vote for the European Socialist Party. But surely there are far more German voters with broadly social-democratic views who wanted to give Helmut Schmidt a kicking, and took the opportunity in the EU elections.

Going further, the history of the rise and decline of parties is that a fundamental challenge on a new issue tends to force previously opposing parties into coalition or fusion. As far as European issues go, the differences between socialists, social democrats and moderate liberals are far less significant than the difference between all these groups on one side and the Eurosceptics on the other.

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  1. Mark B.
    June 16th, 2004 at 12:55 | #1

    Is there a possibility that European-based political parties like the Party of European Socialists (PES) would be too large and cumbersome to respond to voters? Are differences between national parties deeper than people think? Are british Tories always going to agree with Franch Gaullists in the European Peoples Party? Are right-wing parties like the National Front in France going to get along with the Northern League in Italy in a single, right-wing party?

  2. Giancarlo
    June 16th, 2004 at 13:03 | #2

    We who live under a federal system tend to complain that it is a complex system and that the Commonwealth should assume greater powers so as to overcome this complexity. Couldn’t the same be said for the EU? Would it take the abolition of national parliaments to overcome the buck-passing and complexity and actually make a European government work? If this is the case, would any European leader take the plunge and advocate such a measure?

  3. Joerg Wenck
    June 16th, 2004 at 19:19 | #3

    Helmut Schmidt?
    As to the changes in the European political landscape: rather than liberals and socialists, the non-conservative grouping that profits most from the decline of the Social Democrats are the Greens, and in Germany´s case they definitely bag a lot of the pro-European votes.
    John´s proposal should be implemented, but real change will only ensue when a larger part of budget responsibilities will have been concentrated in Brussels. A Euro crisis might do the trick, but doesn´t exactly seem to be imminent.

  4. Oliver Wallace
    June 29th, 2004 at 05:25 | #4

    Dear Mr Quiggin,
    Today I read an article in the Times on the UKIP party and reference to Mr Paul Sykes and to promote UKIP.
    There`s no reference to contact and I went to the Net/Web and found your reference.
    I`m interested in getting involved in the UKIP coming elections as mentioned in the article generally and would like contact information to start.
    If you can be of assistance in this use the email contact please.
    I`ll now check further for the P. Sykes contact.
    Yours sincerely, Oliver Wallace.

  5. Oliver Wallace
    June 29th, 2004 at 05:25 | #5

    Dear Mr Quiggin,
    Today I read an article in the Times today 28th June 04 on the UKIP party and reference to Mr Paul Sykes and to promote UKIP.
    There`s no reference to contact and I went to the Net/Web and found your reference.
    I`m interested in getting involved in the UKIP coming elections as mentioned in the article generally and would like contact information to start.
    If you can be of assistance in this use the email contact please.
    I`ll now check further for the P. Sykes contact.
    Yours sincerely, Oliver Wallace.

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