Farage looks to Canada for inspiration

UKIP leader Nigel Farage Mr Farage is aiming high

George Osborne is not the only one looking to Canada for salvation; Nigel Farage is too.

But while the chancellor has merely hired a Canadian financier to run the Bank of England, the leader of UKIP is seeking to emulate a political revolution that swept the country in the 1990s.

You may remember the Canadian Reform Party. They were the populist, right-of-centre, small state, low tax, anglophone party that came from nowhere in 1993 to win 52 seats in Canada's federal parliament.

Reform routed the Conservative Party - which was left with just two seats - and soon became the official opposition. For years the right in Canada were split and the Liberal Party flourished until eventually Reform and its successors merged with the Conservatives.

Last week the UKIP leader travelled to Ottawa to meet the founder of Reform, Preston Manning, to find out how he did it, how a small, insurgent, west coast party took on the political establishment in the east of Canada and won.

Mr Farage shared a platform with John Howard, the former Australian prime minister, before an audience of 1,000 people at a conference run by Mr Manning's political foundation.

This is what Mr Farage told me he had learned:

1. The by-election that Reform won in 1989 was crucial in convincing voters that a vote for them was not as wasted vote. Expect UKIP to throw everything at its next chance for a seat in Parliament.

2. Reform had, he says, a good slogan - "A common sense revolution" - that reflected Reform's anti-establishment, blue collar agenda. Expect a similar slogan from UKIP in this summer's local elections.

3. Reform had a foundation, an organisation that promoted its views and carried out research. "There is a big gap in UKIP's armoury and that is a foundation," Farage says. "Margaret Thatcher had the IEA. We need a UKIP-friendly think tank."

4. Reform's greatest influence came in changing the Conservative Party with which it ultimately merged, in what Mr Farage, as a former City man, describes as a "reverse takeover". No one can ever say that UKIP's leader lacks ambition; he is clearly aiming high and long. "Doing a deal with the Conservatives is not uppermost on our agenda," he says. "It is not something I would consider until after the next election." But the idea has clearly crossed his mind.

Key fact: Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister of Canada, was first elected to the Canadian parliament in 1993. As a young MP for the Reform party.

Now that really is food for thought...

James Landale Article written by James Landale James Landale Deputy political editor

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  • Comment number 464.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 463.

    I moved to Canada more than 37 years ago - never regretted it. Preston Manning was the butt of many jokes while he was in politics - but he has a great sense of humour and joined in the jokes sometimes. Fellow Canadians will remember the Royal Canadian Air Farce .... He managed to shake up the Liberal party which had ruled Canada for many years - because they thought they had the right to rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Does the BBC deliberately only use pictures of Farage that make him look like Homer Simpson?

    Difficult not to, and he even has the political nous. He can't eve crash a plane properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Our current ridiculous level of commitment to the EU is due to Mr & Mrs Blair. The UK debt is due to the trillions paid to the EU from '97 by Blair who was trying to buy himself the position of President of Europe.
    Trillions paid by Labour who taxed us almost to extinction to get our money and hand it over to the EU bottomless unaudited pit, without any shame about the consequences. Farage for PM

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    The liberal 'metropolitan' Left need to wise up if they think Ukip is a purely right wing phenomenon. More than a few tradnl Labour voters of the type that don't read the Guardian, don't eat ciabatta, don't care for immigration, think Miliband's a twerp, & don't know what HYS is, are starting to look favourably on Ukip. I'd put a few family & friends in that category.


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