Britain's "tea party" is turning politics upside down

Farage, who is often seen with a pint of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, is an unlikely history-maker; his rag-tag party was once dismissed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists;” scandals have dogged the party’s election campaign; and Farage has been accused of financial impropriety. Yet the latest opinion poll has Ukip with 31 percent of the vote, three points above Labour and well ahead of Cameron’s Conservative Party, who are down in third place at 19 percent.

This is not how British politics is supposed to work. Farage is in the middle of a two-week bus tour attracting thousands of voters to American-style town hall meetings for the first time in a generation. “Please do something that the English don’t normally do,” he asked of an enthusiastic crowd in the town of Dudley, in the West Midlands. “We’re very good at moaning, we’re very good at watching the news and saying: ‘Isn’t it awful.’…

Newspaper and television coverage of the party has been largely hostile so Farage has been forced to find new ways to communicate with the public. “I think what we learn from America is that whatever the state or national media decides the agenda should be, the Internet now has the power to overturn it,” he told The Daily Beast. “That’s what the Tea Party has shown and that’s one of the things that Ukip is now beginning to do really well. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, I think without that, we wouldn’t really be where we are.”