The early days of UKIP have its roots at LSE. Curator for Politics and International Relations Daniel Payne takes a look at the Library archives that document the development of euroscepticism in the UK.
In November 1993 the Maastricht Treaty came into force. It was a highly controversial treaty, not just for the UK, which nearly bought down John Major’s Conservative government. The treaty established the European Union (formerly the EC, or European Community) and was a significant step in further European integration. It created “ever closer” union between member states, shared foreign and security policies, introduced European citizenship and paved the way for the introduction of the Euro (read the treaty in full here).
For the UK, the social chapter of the Treaty proved the most controversial, with the UK eventually securing an opt-out on this and the Euro. But for many the treaty was a step too far, and represented an ever increasing surrender of national sovereignty to Brussels.
In opposition to the Maastricht Treaty, then Head of European Studies at LSE, Alan Sked founded the Anti-Federalist League (AFL) in November 1991. Although deeply unpopular (with the so-called “Maastricht Rebels” refusing to support the Prime Minister in a series of crucial votes), the ratification of the treaty was supported by the three main political parties.
Sked therefore founded the AFL “to mobilise public opinion in defence of British sovereignty and to prevent the UK becoming a province of a united European superstate”
The AFL stood seventeen candidates in the 1992 General Election as well as Newbury and Chirstchurch by-elections, offering the electorate a chance to vote for a party which was not committed to the Maastricht deal. The party did not win any seats but it did help raise the issue of Europe.
The treaty continued its difficult passage through parliament, taking nearly two years before it was eventually ratified in August 1993. Rather than a European Union, the AFL wanted a loose association of all European states, retaining their independence to trade equally with European and other partners.
…The people of Britain should not be forced to give up their independence, their Parliament and their democratic traditions. Since they are not consulted and are not to be allowed to vote on the matter, they are in effect being forced.
In 1993, the AFL approved a motion to change its name. It became the UK Independence Party, or UKIP. By 1995, UKIP held its first national conference in the Old Theatre at LSE with a packed-out audience, where the national Executive Committee were led in “by a first-rate Scottish piper”.
When the Maastricht Treaty was ratified in the UK, Sked wrote a letter to Prime Minister John Major outlining UKIP’s criticisms of the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty.
Sked subsequently resigned from UKIP in 1997, complaining that the party had been infiltrated by racists and the far-right.
LSE Library recently acquired the archives of Alan Sked. It contains minutes from AFL meetings, along with the Chair’s correspondence and election material. Also amongst the collection are the constitutions and executive committee minutes of the early days of UKIP, along with correspondence, policy notes, speeches and ephemera. The collection is open to all at LSE Library, and sits amongst a collection of other material that documents the UK’s history in and out of the EU.
Visit LSE Library’s current exhibition “What does Brexit mean to you?” including a section guest-curated by Alan Sked.
Part of this post originally appeared on the LSE Library blog, authored by Kate Higgins (LSE Library archivist)
Posts about LSE Library explore the history of the Library, our archives and special collections.