On British Seaside, UKIP Seeks Second Wind

After topping the polls in Britain\'s vote for the European Parliament in 2014, a triumphant year continued with the party\'s first two lawmakers in parliament.

Published: 27th February 2015 11:52 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2015 11:52 PM   |  A+A-


UK:  Britain's anti-EU UK Independence Party is hoping for a breakthrough in the May general election, but will have to overcome an electoral system stacked against small parties and its own history of racist gaffes.

The battle begins in Margate, a faded east England seaside resort where leader Nigel Farage's demands to withdraw from the EU, cut the number of immigrants and restore Britain to the good old days resonate.

After topping the polls in Britain's vote for the European Parliament in 2014, a triumphant year continued with the party's first two lawmakers in parliament.

Both were already MPs, but defected from the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron and were re-elected under the yellow and purple banner of UKIP in by-elections that rattled the ruling party.

At the height of "UKIP-mania" the party approached 20 percent support in opinion polls, with some predicting the party would scoop as many as 100 seats in 2015.

But a few months later the fervour has cooled.

While UKIP remains the third force in the country after the Conservatives and the left-leaning opposition Labour party, UKIP support has fallen below 15 percent.

Even once-ubiquitous leader Farage is less prolific, concentrating on what is cut out to be a tight election in South Thanet, the constituency in southeast England he hopes to take from the Conservatives.

The party will struggle to triumph against a first-past-the-post system under which broad national support does not translate into seats unless the party wins individual constituencies outright.

University of Nottingham UKIP expert Matthew Goodwin estimated the party will win six seats while the University of Manchester's Rob Ford put it at "five to 10".

Poll aggregator electionforecast sees the party taking between zero and three.

It's slim pickings, particularly considering that experts believe between 20 and 30 seats will go to the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner with just eight percent support nationally but a number of loyal constituencies.

"It's just so unfair. We'll have twice as much votes than the Lib-Dems but end up with what? Five times less MPs," UKIP supporter Chris told AFP as he arrived at the conference in Margate.

Leeds University politics professor Jocelyn Evans told AFP that UKIP would have a big impact in the election by sapping votes from other parties in a tight race, but may only take a handful of seats.

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