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Politicians must change to beat Ukip

SUCCESS, it is said, has many fathers, while failure is an orphan.

Ukip's success in the English council elections, and its expected triumph in the European Parliament results declared tonight, is no exception. However, few will take the paternity test.

Ukip is often dismissed as Nigel Farage's one-man band, and its success attributed to the xenophobic stoking of fears over immigration. But its origins lie in Westminster, and its domination by a narrow, London-centric political class which has become self-serving and disconnected from the voters.

This is a political class which claims to feel your pain over the cost of living, but, as Labour leader Ed Miliband recently showed, is unable to put a price on the average family's food bill.

And, as Ukip reminds people, it is a class indelibly stained by the Commons expenses scandal.

Liberal Democrat minister Lynne Featherstone diagnosed the disconnect during the election coverage. "We are so guarded and so on message that we have lost our humanity," she told the BBC. But Ukip "managed to sound like human beings".

As a result, Farage's party has turned England into a four-party system. His opponents hope it is a temporary phase - but the SNP has given Scotland a four-party system for decades, and the advent of Holyrood expanded that to five with the Greens, and for a while to six with the Scottish Socialists.

There is no guarantee Ukip will conveniently melt away; revolutionaries have a habit of becoming the next establishment.

But what does the surge in the vote for Ukip mean? Does it represent a clamour for the UK to quit the European Union and lock the ports against immigrants? Is it as crude and shallow as that?

Or is it a demand for reform; for politicians who understand their electors and speak their minds instead of a remote elite whose loyalty is to their own inward-looking political clan.

It seems to us that the latter is more likely.

True, many who voted Ukip worry about migration and its effect on public services, but they direct their anger and contempt at the political class for failing to heed those concerns, rather than immigrants themselves.

Although Ukip is an English phenomenon, Scots are disillusioned with Westminster too.

The SNP may be rightly repulsed by Ukip's policies, but they point to public discontent with Westminster to argue for independence, and it is working.

Ukip is a herald of profound change for the UK. We hope it is a herald of a Yes vote.

But if that fails, the UK political system must change regardless, devolving power across the country to reconnect with lost voters.

For that to happen, Westminster needs to look in the mirror and see how grotesque it has become.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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