View from the House: Labour MP John Cryer on the rise of UKIP

MP John Cryer

MP John Cryer - Credit: Archant

We are now in the run-up to May’s elections to the European Parliament, which according to many pundits and polls promises to be the first four-party election in Britain for many decades.

Obviously, I am talking about the rise of UKIP.

You have to go back to the 1930s when there were major parties with numbers of MPs such as Commonwealth, Liberal Unionists and the Independent Labour Party to find a time when there were more than three electorally compelling parties competing.

Even Winston Churchill, for many years MP for the old Wanstead and Woodford constituency, was at different times a member of both the Conservative and Liberal parties, flirted with something called the Constitutionalist Party and in 1938 considered joining Labour.

I don’t particularly like UKIP, but new parties do not arise by accident. They come about because of important shifts in British society. I suspect the rise of UKIP has come about because, among other reasons, many voters feel they have lost control over their own destinies. There has also been a growth in cynicism towards the established parties. And – whether politicians like it or not – the EU exercises political power of sorts.

Since the last referendum on Europe we have had major changes in our relationship with the EU. The Single European Act, Maastricht, Lisbon and Nice all affected the power of the ballot box and of our parliament.

But no government has asked people their views. In my view there should be a referendum on EU membership, not at some distant point after David Cameron has conned the voters into believing he has revolutionised our EU membership, but now.