The Front National in France, other broadly social-national parties of the European mainland and (in England and Wales) UKIP are not “ceilings” (end results) but “floors” (starting points). Their function is to disrupt the political status quo and to awaken as far as they can the voting populations of the various European states. Naturally, that is not how they themselves see their role.
The case of UKIP is telling. UKIP came into a political milieu in Britain where (in the 1990s) there were only “three main parties” and a high majority of those who voted voted for them. Below the surface, though, there was growing but unfocussed discontent and alienation. Turnout in general elections, which peaked at 83.9% in 1950, fell (on the wider franchise after 1966) to a low of 59.4% by 2001, though it recovered slightly to 66.1% by 2015. An equally-telling fact is that the proportion of voters who voted and who voted for one of those “three main parties” fell steadily and is still falling. In broad terms, a third of eligible voters did not vote at the 2015 General Election; of those who did vote, about 75% voted for LibLabCon (UK-wide results), with another 12.6% voting for UKIP.
UKIP peaked in 2014, failed to break through in 2015 and is now declining fast in every way. Its 2016 by-election results have been poor, its donors are going and its membership falling. I addressed the UK political vacuum in an earlier blog post. However, UKIP has succeeded in a more major way than did the BNP and not only because UKIP scored 21 MEPs as against the BNP’s 2.
UKIP created an atmosphere across the country in which social nationalism might start to thrive, despite the fact that UKIP, as a party, is not really social-national.
UKIP, despite being now more or less washed-up, is a floor. On that floor a movement can be built. The Front National in France is not at all in decline (au contraire) but is also a basis for a movement, rather than the movement itself. The FN is, however, likely to become or coalesce with such a movement, whereas UKIP will just fade away even if it can score a few election victories in the 2016-2020 period. The importance of both parties, however, is that they have changed the atmosphere. Social nationalism is now not a fringe ideology. It stands ready, once the right vehicles arrive, to take command across Europe. In Britain (specifically England and Wales), there is a crying need for such a social national movement and I believe that it will emerge, will arise and will, eventually, seize power.