UKIP are sort of important.
This is what happened.
Immigration increased in this country as the Labour Party moved to the centre on the grounds that traditional voters had nowhere else to go. The evidence suggested that it created a net gain, both economically and culturally. However, this overlooked the problem of dispersal: most immigrants congregated where the poorest Britains lived. To professionals, wooed by apparent New Labour competence, this was not a problem, but it was a legitimate concern for those who saw the influx 'on their doorstep'. While the alternative to the main parties was the BNP, this made little difference, most Brits, even the poor and frightened, being more or less decent.
Immigration became a national issue, however,when news came out of gross inefficiently in the Home Office over the managing of asylum seekers. The Redtops latched upon this, and reported immigration as the national threat the main parties did little about The real problem of dispersal, however, was still not addressed, and instead of being interpreted as a class issue it became a culture war between liberalism/traditional, tolerantance/prejudice.
UKIP under Kilroy-Silk was part of the culture wars. Farage's insight was to relate it more concretely to the concerns of the significant majority who saw an actual downside to their quality of life under immigration and to link the EU policy of the free movement of labour to it. The fear of Islamic terrorism provided the oil, as it were, to this fire, and the 2008 financial mess added the coal. The Eurozone crisis added a draught to fan the flames. The feeling grew that the main political parties were arguing over grand designs, while ignoring the immediate threats.
Thus, a macro-economic outlook in favour of globalisation at a time when the poorest were taking the hits in local areas, left it feeling ignored. Step forward plain-thinking, fag smoking, beer drinking, jolly old Nigel with his contempt for the main parties.
It is not a surprise that this combination of tabloid commercial imperative, political atrophy, crisis in globalisation and year on rises in immigration should produce a UKIP surge.
There are also profound historical reasons why Britain is Euro-sceptic.
The question is: will it make a difference, do harm, or good? In some ways good: it might be the kick up the arse that the main parties and the EU need - assuming other Euro-sceptic parties do well - to make a proper analysis of the failings of the global free market ideology. On the other hand, it might go all knee-jerk and make inadequate concessions to keep the flaws in the system going.
That the problem is not the EU and immigration alone should be clear by the contradiction in the philosophies of those making the loudest UKIP noises, UKIP itself and the Conservative right. In principle, they believe in small government and free markets. Yet their policies on the EU and immigration are actually interventionist policies that insist on limiting the rights of businesses to employ whomever they wish, and to take the monitoring of the free trade zone in Europe from a non-national body to the national one. The deep problem of the UK is weak productivity: this has been the case for decades. British workers either work less or less efficiently than the competition - the latter more than the first. Free market principles propose that the last thing you do to improve efficiency is limit the competition.
This contradiction tells us that the real issue is not actually the things talked about. It is in reality a fight between the large corporations that benefit from globalisation and those who work only within the internal market: unskilled labourers, small businesses, and pensioners, whose place in the global market through pension funds would not be harmed by UKIP policies (until they realised they have raised their taxes).
Hope that helps.
Leeds United is ruining my life.