Following the Pirate Bay Trial, a large surge in Pirate Party interest occurred around the world. After the success of the Swedish Pirate Party in the summer 2009 European Elections, there was a sudden growth of Pirate Party organisations across Europe (notably in Germany and France) and beyond. Forum membership soared. The official formation of the Pirate Party in the UK followed shortly after the European Elections and the Pirate Party UK was officially registered on 30 July 2009.
In August, it was claimed that Pirate Party UK was undergoing rapid growth similar to one the Swedish Pirate Party had enjoyed in early 2009. It was reported that they had been flooded by enquiries and at its peak around 100 people an hour were signing up to become party members. Donations had been coming in so fast that PayPal was concerned they were a fraudulent site.
On 22 August 2009, one of the Party Officers, John McKeown, resigned from his post after he made a blog post that caused controversy and debate upon party policy. He felt that as he was elected prior to official formation of the party, when there were fewer members, he could not safely say he represented the majority view of the party.
In December 2009, the party voted to accept Peter Liddell as the new Party Treasurer, and John Barron was voted Nominating Officer, as well as ratifying several other positions within the party in November.
On 23 January 2010, the party opened voting to its members for the internal party elections for NEC members. It was announced on 1 February 2010 that the party members had voted to retain the current executive members.
On 30 March 2010, the party declared its intent to stand 10 candidates across England and Scotland, however to do so, further party funding would be required. On 27 April 2010, the party announced that it had nine official candidates on the ballot papers, as Mark Sims had missed the deadline due to the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption.
Following the resignation of first party leader Andrew Robinson, composer and lecturer Laurence "Loz" Kaye was elected as the new leader on 26 September 2010. In a message sent to members, Kaye stated his key aim as "building the political structure of the party". Previously, Kaye had been the Election Agent for candidate Tim Dobson who stood for Pirate Party UK in Manchester Gorton.
On 25 February 2015, the Pirate Party UK announced their withdrawal from their international affiliation, Pirate Party International. This announcement, consolidated by a vote of the Board, followed in the wake of Pirate Party Australia's decision to leave earlier in the same month.
In the run-up to the 2015 general election, the Pirate Party crowdsourced their manifesto using Reddit. The process ran until the 21 March 2015.
Kaye stepped down as Leader following the 2015 general election in May. Due to the role of Deputy Leader also being vacant, George Walkden, the party's Nominating Officer, was approved by the Board of Governors to serve as an interim Leader until the party elected a new Leader. Following the leadership election, Cris Chesha was elected Leader of the party. David Elston was elected the first Deputy Leader of the party. Six new Governors were elected, with six Governors being re-elected. Also, Rebecca Rae was elected to the role of Campaigns Officer on the NEC.
On 18 June, Andrew Norton stepped down as Chair of the Board, and was replaced by the Deputy Chair of the Board, Andrew Robinson, also the former Leader of the party from 2009 to 2010. On 29 July 2015, Will Tovey was elected as the next Deputy Chair of the Board to replace Robinson. Will Tovey subsequently became chair of the Board, and Adrian Farrel replaced him on 14 December 2016.
The party's extended period without an elected NEC caught the attention of larger media outlets in October 2016 where Kaye and Elston gave comment.
The Pirate Party in the UK adopted a set of seven principles:
- Our society is built upon the sharing of knowledge, ideas and culture. It is furthered by freedom of thought and expression, and protected by the rule of law. The Pirate Party exists to ensure the preservation and development of these foundations.
- Human dignity is inviolable. Each of us has a right to life and to live, to freedom of thought and self-determination, and to participate in society.
- Everyone is equal under the law. We all have a say in the structure and processes of governance and the right to know what is done on our behalf.
- Respect for our private and family life by government and society is fundamental and we all have freedom of choice in our associations and relationships.
- To be free to participate in society everyone must have access to justice, education and such services and infrastructure required for life within it.
- To ensure the security of our society it is the responsibility of the government to provide for its defence, the mechanisms of justice and such services and infrastructure required to meet its needs.
- We will act on the basis of evidence, with the consent of society through democracy, in the interests of all.
During the initial formative weeks and months of the Pirate Party UK, there was a large number of individuals who visited the party's online forum and suggested additional policies such as changes to the UK electoral system, the legalisation of cannabis, and NHS reform. Subsequently, the forum's structure was changed in order to demarcate more clearly the party's own values from the various additional suggestions that have been independently put forward by individuals. The party leadership has clarified on the official party blog that the Pirate Party UK intends to remain strictly focused on its three core policies:
- The reform of Copyright and Patent Laws
- The protection of our Right to Privacy
- The protection of our Right to Freedom of Speech
On 22 March 2010, the party announced their 2010 general election manifesto, which expanded on how the party intended to practically implement their core policies if elected.
In the run up to the 2015 General Election, a Manifesto all six candidates agreed upon based on the crowd sourced policies was created, which kept the core three principals as their focus but included a wide range of other issues.
It has previously been noted by Robinson, the first Pirate Party UK leader, that the Pirate Party UK's chances of getting a candidate elected to the UK parliament are "pretty much close to zero", due to the use of the First Past the Post system for electing MPs to Parliament. Instead, their immediate aim is to raise awareness amongst the voters and the politicians in the other political parties.
The Pirate Party UK operates branches in many places around the United Kingdom. These include London, York, Greater Manchester, Sheffield and Bury.
Pirate Party Wales (Welsh: Plaid Môr-leidr Cymru) is a branch of the Pirate Party UK that covers the entirety of Wales and was founded in 2014 by David Anthony Elston. Pirate Party Wales supports increased recognition of the Welsh language, including reform of the Welsh Language Act 1993 and free Welsh courses for all Welsh nationals. They also support further devolution to Wales and increased powers for the Welsh Assembly. The only candidate to have stood in Wales so far is Elston who stood in Bridgend in the 2015 general election.
Although no formal branch exists in Scotland, the Pirate Party UK contested 2011 Scottish Parliament general election, standing eight candidates in West of Scotland and Glasgow.
The party stood 9 candidates in the 2010 General Election and received 1,340 votes overall, or about 0.35% of the total votes cast in those constituencies that had Pirate candidates:
Mark Sims intended to stand in East Ham but missed the deadline due to the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption.
All their candidates lost their deposits, with their best performance being 0.62% in Manchester Gorton.
The Pirate Party fielded Loz Kaye at the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election in 2011, after Labour's victory in the 2010 election was declared void by the courts, and the incumbent Phil Woolas was removed. The result was 96 votes (0.3%).
Pirate Party UK stood 8 regional candidates in 2 regions in the Scottish Parliament election
Graeme Lambert also stood in the local election in Bury gaining 3.62% of the vote.
Pirate Party UK stood 6 candidates in 3 regions in the United Kingdom local elections. They received 551 votes, or 2.26% on average over the 6 wards they stood in, the best results for the party in an election. In the Manchester Bradford ward the party leader, Loz Kaye, received 5.2% of the vote, the highest the party has achieved in any election.
Loz Kaye was the Pirate Party's candidate in the Manchester Central by-election on 15 November 2012. He received 1.9% of the vote.
The Pirate Party announced its intentions to stand candidates in the North West England (European Parliament constituency) for the 2014 European Parliament election on the 28 March 2014. Three Pirate Party UK candidates were nominated, Maria Aretoulaki, George Walkden and Jack Allnutt.
The party also adopted a 'common European election programme' in common with other European Pirate Parties, in addition to its existing policies.
The party received 8,957 votes, resulting in a 0.5% share in the North West England constituency.
The party had 6 candidates in the 2015 General Election. All the Pirate Party UK candidates standing for election were endorsed by Something New as candidates to vote for in constituencies where they themselves were not standing candidates, with the exception of Mark Chapman due to Something New being in an Alliance with a competitor to Mark.
The Pirate Party UK's Governor of the Board, Andrew McCallum secured 13 votes, which is a 0.6% vote share.
The Pirate Party UK's Nominations Officer, George Walkden stood in a Higher Blackly local by-election, securing 9 votes (0.6% vote share).
Shortly after his resignation as Deputy Leader, the Pirate Party UK's first Government official, Cllr David A Elston on 1 March 2016 (St David's Day) joined the St Athan Community Council.
Andreas Habeland stood in the Church Street Westminster Local Council 2016 election and secured 26 (0.8%) votes.
Kev Young, Independent, joined the Pirate Party UK, stood down and was co-opted back on to the council, which provided the Pirate Party UK with their second councillor and first council chairperson.