UKIP is a populist party. It's anti 'other': Immigrants, 'Liberal Metropolitan Elites', Foreigners, cyclists. It attracts golf-club bores, and over-confident pub ranters, whose ideas bounce off a leadership intent on stroking their prejudices. The idiocy resonates in the echo-chamber and builds into a great crescendo of cant. The Green Party is a populist party for environmentalist and left-wing extremists. Their policy formation is identical to UKIPs, but starts with a different set of stupid ideas, but the idiocy and cant are the same. As for Green and UKIP, so too Respect, SWP, SSP and all the other minor parties in the system.
These parties, and the collapse of the main parties, is a symptom, not of the Failure of the democratic system, but it's success. The main parties have presided over a stunning prosperity over the past two or three centuries. The forms, if not yet the reality, of democracy are near-universal. The richest, happiest and most powerful nations are the ones, still, who have been democracies longest. The citizens of these countries are the richest, freest, safest, longest lived, healthiest and most productive people who have ever lived. The options open to the poorest Briton dwarf those of all but a tiny proportion of Congolese. The people of Britain have now, thanks to democracy, moved so far up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, they expect to be listened to too.
If there's one idea behind the rise of UKIP in particular, it's that the country has "gone to the dogs". It hasn't. Nor is it "run by Europe". The Tory party is not "the same as the Labour party", and there isn't a grand conspiracy to do down the little guy by the "Liberal Metropolitan Elite". The conspiracy theories of all the other minor parties about big business, or the oil industry are likewise, bunkum. They're the result of pandering to the prejudices of self-entitled people who lack the self-discipline to accept that you cannot in reality expect to agree with everything concerning the government of seventy-million people. They don't like some aspect of Labour or Tory policy and claim to want "A Party that reflects my views".
The fact is the rise of minor parties reflects a self-centred 'me-me-me' culture, where people feel their ideas are valid, however un-thought-out or spontaneous. Looking at a major party of Government and thinking it insufficiently extreme, betrays a misunderstanding of what democracy is FOR. It is not to impose one group's ideal. It is not to conduct accurate head-counts. It's not even to do what 'the people' want. It's to temper the excesses of those who would seek to govern us, and vote the rotters out if necessary. The British have traditionally preferred their coalitions WITHIN parties not between them. To imagine you could ever agree with the entire manifesto of such a party, is just stupid.
In order to get a radical change of policy enacted you must first persuade a major party of Government, which involves persuading a fairly conservative machine. Then you must persuade a sizeable chunk of the activists of that party, each wedded to his or her own personal idiocies. Then you must get supporters elected to offices of the party, selected for safe-seats, and then win an election. Then the policy must be rammed through by enthusiastic politicians against a conservative Whitehall machine. An idea has to pass a pretty big set of hurdles before it becomes enacted policy of the state. The length of time MPs can sit means ideas which were being implemented in the 60s still have adherents in the commons to this day. Change is HARD to effect. Only Atlee's coming in after the war, and Thatcher's managed to significantly alter the direction of travel.
This is no bad thing.
Democracy, and the two-party duopoly will get shaken up from time to time, but the Tory, Whig, Liberal, Labour stranglehold on power which they've enjoyed for three hundred years isn't all bad. Pick one. Try to persuade it. Attempt to drag the centre ground of politics your way. Because setting up a new party always ends up a vanity project for the likes of Nigel Farage or the Dictator-toadying George-Galloway, and makes everyone involved look like an twat. It also serves to ensure the splitting of your side of the see-saw, ensuring the centre-ground of policy moves farther away from you.
Because we are all idiots in our own way, our enthusiasms need tempering. Only the major parties have sufficiently high hurdles for ideas to prevent most of the most idiotic ideas becoming official policy. Joining UKIP or the Green Party rather than the Tories or Labour, is the action of an idiot, without the self-awareness to realise he is one. It's a reflection of the egotism of our society. And it's futile.