“A bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” was the famously dismissive verdict of Prime Minister David Cameron on the United Kingdom Independence Party, commonly known as UKIP.
But a confluence of recent events has meant that in 2015, Mr Cameron faces a significant challenge from a buoyant UKIP, which has threatened to derail policy on EU membership and undermine the Conservatives on the right.
Originally one of a cluster of fringe parties demanding withdrawal from the European Union that contested successive elections without significant success, UKIP has broken away from the confines of low single-digit support to enter the mainstream of British consciousness over the past five years.
Led by former commodities trader and one-time Conservative Nigel Farage, UKIP has capitalised on popular dissatisfaction with mainstream politicians, espousing a jingoistic outlook and an anti-establishment posture to great media effect.
This, combined with increased clout in the European Parliament following the May 2014 elections, has permitted UKIP to capture the agenda and gain a significant proportion of the projected vote.
What’s more, the rise of UKIP has been accompanied by significant controversy and confusion over its policies. Apparent U-turns and dramatic announcements such as a statement of intent to abolish race equality legislation have led to widespread ridicule and condemnation, while media slip-ups have applied yet more heat.
The party has gained two parliamentary seats through dramatic defections, returning libertarian Douglas Carswell and renegade backbencher Mark Reckless – both former Tories – to the Commons after high-profile by-elections.
With fighting talk from Mr Farage, who himself is hoping to capture ultramarginal South Thanet from the Conservatives, it remains to be seen whether would-be 'kippers will hesitate to follow through on their stated voting intentions, or whether UKIP will succeed in making the gains it wants.
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As Senior Political Analyst at DeHavilland, Anna Haswell leads on financial services policy, as well as covering media issues. In her capacity as Content Marketer, she is also responsible for DeHavilland's briefings and analysis output, working across teams to ensure relevant messages reach current and prospective clients alike. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and Goldsmiths, University of London.