Jukes, Peter, Newsweek
Byline: Peter Jukes
Europhobia as a full-time job.
It was one of the most memorable images of the last election. On the morning the polls opened in 2010, Nigel Farage, a British member of the European Parliament, was photographed in the wreckage of a small aircraft, which had crashed soon after takeoff when a banner for his UK Independence Party tangled with the plane's tail. Though he suffered cracked ribs, a broken sternum, and a punctured lung, Farage soon bounced back, in the manner of Mr. Toad, a character from The Wind in the Willows who is ever-bumptious, misguided but irrepressible.
Three years on, that energy is paying off. In a recent by-election, caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, the former secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who had to give up his seat after he admitted to lying about traffic offenses, Farage's Independence Party increased its vote from 4 percent to 27.8 percent--what Farage immediately declared a "national political earthquake." And certainly Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party, which was beaten into third place, have felt the tremors.
That Farage, with his private-school background and Home-Counties golf-club swagger, should become England's foremost anti-establishment politician is largely a symptom of conservative discontent with the prime minister's attempt to detoxify and modernize his party. In 2006, the year he won the leadership contest, Cameron tried to marginalize the party Farage helped to found by telling a radio station that "UKIP is sort of a bunch of ... fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists mostly."
Farage defied that stereotype, and in the 2009 European parliamentary elections steered his party to the second-highest share of the popular vote, his 2 million votes exceeding those won by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Though Euro elections have famously low turnouts, and mainly animate voters who are avidly anti-EU, UKIP is currently predicted to come first in next year's elections. …