The United Kingdom is going to the polls on Thursday. Elections electrify the countries in which they are held, but in most cases they make little difference. In this case, the election is a bit more important. Whether Labour or the Tories win makes some difference, but not all that much. What makes this election significant is that in Scotland, 45 percent of the public voted recently to leave the United Kingdom. This has been dismissed as an oddity by all well-grounded observers. However, for unsophisticated viewers like myself, the fact that 45 percent of Scotland was prepared to secede was an extraordinary event.
Moreover, this election matters because UKIP — formerly the United Kingdom Independence Party — is in it, and polls indicate that it will win about 12 percent of the vote, while winning a handful of seats in Parliament. This discrepancy is due to an attribute of the British electoral system, which favors seats won over total votes cast. UKIP’s potential winnings don’t seem very significant. However, the party represents a movement in Britain that is not unlike what is going on in the rest of Europe, and in addition, creates a new dimension to British strategic policy that might well be important. Most of the vote that UKIP is attracting comes from former Conservative voters. That means that Prime Minister David Cameron might lose the election. That does not change Britain’s strategic position much. UKIP and the Scottish vote might.