A trio of social media stars are helping push the U.K.’s Brexit party to the right. It started, as most things Markus Meechan does, with a social media post. “If this gets 10k retweets, I will join UKIP,” Meechan, a Scottish political YouTuber known online as Count Dankula, wrote on Twitter on June 15. “I’m not joking, this is not a meme. I’m being completely serious.”
The next day Meechan and two other rising stars on the video sharing platform joined the United Kingdom Independence Party in what one of them described a “soft coup.” The “coup” description was meant as a joke, but they might as well have been serious. Less than half a year later, the party that put Brexit on the political agenda is undergoing a transformation driven in no small part by the online star power of Meechan and his fellow YouTubers, Paul Joseph Watson and Car Benjamin, who posts under the name “Sargon of Akkad.” “The political landscape in the U.K. is blighted and ripe for a bold UKIP to rise up,” Benjamin told POLITICO in an email. “We are the party of freedom, and we will win.”
While the U.K.’s Brexit party — which hit its electoral peak in the 2014 European elections, finishing first with 24 seats — has largely faded from view in Westminster following Nigel Farage’s departure in 2016, it has been slowly trying to rebuild and remodel itself, supported by the U.K.’s growing online ecosystem of right-wing populism. The new UKIP has yet to be properly tested at the ballot box but its re-emergence as the U.K.’s first post-referendum populist party fueled by social media is symptomatic of a broader international shift in how politics in conducted today, with potentially transformative effects. Two of UKIP’s former leaders, Farage and Paul Nuttall, quit earlier this month, in protest at the direction the party is taking. Half of its members in the European Parliament followed. Their departure is likely to hasten UKIP’s swerve toward the far-right, Farage and other internal critics have said, from a party that billed itself as representing “the true voices of Little England” to one that’s more eager to embrace the European or American-style nationalism embraced by Meechan and his friends. The new UKIP is part of a wider international “Freedom Movement,” alongside the American conservative right, said Benjamin. They “very much consider each other brothers in arms, despite the many thousands of miles that separate them,” he added.
viampolitico: The rise of UKIP’s YouTubers