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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  • rate this
    +54

    Comment number 6.

    I work in Europe, have lived in 2 European countries, speak 2 European languages fluently and a third to a high standard and I support UKIP. Does that make me an extremist, a "little Englander" maybe? Or someone who is a lover of democracy and is terrified of the democratic deficit in the EU? As for pro business, well, the last time I looked businesses created jobs and wealth for society

  • rate this
    +45

    Comment number 38.

    Rare to find UKIP mentioned on the BBC, the home of left wing pro EU multiculturlaists everywhere. In answer to some of the anti UKIP trolls on here UKIP is not anti european - its anti EU. The EU is anti-democratic and corrupt as Greece and Cyprus are finding out. If you want Berlin and the IMF to be running Britain in 5 years keep voting LibLabCon.
    I will be voting UKIP till we're out.

  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 86.

    78. Eric
    I`m all for shaking up the status quo, but not with UKIP. The lessons of the previous century are still a little fresh.
    --
    Are you seriously comparing UKIP to the Nazi's? If anything wanting to break away from one big european super-state is rather the direct opposite of Hitler!

    As it stands many brits want out of europe but none of the big-3 will respond. Is that democracy?

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 12.

    He will be learning how to garner and harness what the British people really want in a more transparent manner - to influence and change politics. That is the true legacy of the Reform Party in Canada. Despite multiculturalism and the 'leftist' influence, the western Canadian voices were heard once again. That is the lesson to be learned - ALL voices have the right to be heard and represented.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 121.

    Funny how the Liberal minority use the racism/Nazi party comparisons when there's any mention of UKIP or control of immigration. Usually just a ham-fisted attempt to silence the debate. Cats out the bag I'm afraid and has been for years, this line of argument just shows the proponent to be losing the debate and a gross lack of a valid point of view.

 

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