The United Kingdom Independence Party is a British Political Party whose central aim is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union to regain control of the nation's affairs through Parliament at Westminster. But it claims not to be anti-European per se, but rather argues for Britain's future as an independent nation competing in the world. It is commonly known as 'UKIP', pronounced as 'you-kip' rather than 'you-kay-aih-pee'.
The party grew out of the Anti-Federalist League, an organisation founded by Dr Alan Sked in November 1991 to oppose the Maastricht Treaty, and which ran candidates in the 1992 general election. On the 3rd September 1993 several members of the Anti-Federalist League decided to form the UKIP and elected Alan Sked as the first party leader. The party later contested a quarter of the seats contested in the 1994 European election and received a respectable if unspectacular total of 157,000 votes.
Alan Sked was replaced by businessman Michael Holmes in 1997 at which point he quit the party, and was later to criticise the party for its decision to take up any seats it won in the European Parliament elections, and urged support for the Conservative Party. UKIP found itself rather overshadowed in the 1997 general elections by the Referendum Party which had the advantage of funding provided by its leader James Goldsmith and became mired in internal squabbles.
The party achieved a breakthrough in the 1999 European elections when it won three seats and a 9.2% share of the vote. Five years later in 2004 with the assistance of advice from Bill Clintons's former advisor Dick Morris and candidates such as Robert Kilroy-Silk, the former TV presenter and Labour Party MP, it increased its share of the vote to 16.1%, ahead of the Liberal Democrats at 14.6% and pushed the Labour Party into third place in the South-West. It now has a total of twelve MEPs, but despite its success at the European level it has failed to make any kind of impact at either a national or local level.
It has other policy commitments, such as introducing a new Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom, of a centre-right orientation (pro-family law an order etc), but it is essentially a single issue campaign. It seems to exist purely a repository for protest votes, particularly at European elections, and as an expression of the British public's frustration at the dead hand of European bureaucracy.
Website at: http://www.independence.org.uk or http://www.ukip.org/