The opening speech at this year’s Ukip conference culminated in a cry: “We’re looking for a referendum on Europe. Now!” No huge policy surprises there, then, but it seemed to please the crowd, who met the announcement with raucous applause.
This was different to previous conferences, though. “A lot of interest this year,” the steward had said proudly as he led me to my seat. He was right—unlike previous years, the place was filled with journalists and camera crews. It’s the first time in five years that their conference has been held in London, and it was held in Westminster Central Hall, on Parliament Square, as if presenting a challenge to the politicians currently residing in the building opposite.
Since earlier this year, Ukip has pushed ahead in the polls to become Britain’s third most popular party. Throughout the morning there were efforts to stress that, despite its reputation for conservatism and traditionalism, this is the party of the future. “We’re forward thinking, we’re modern,” declared deputy leader Paul Nuttall. A Ukip billboard van parked outside the building even referred to the three “old” parties—not the “other” ones, but the “old” ones…
… To continue reading click here to visit the Prospect website. Originally published 20 September 2013.