The UKIP cat amongst the pigeons

Today’s local elections promise to be somewhat more interesting than usual, due to the expected arrival of UKIP in the premier division of party politics. The Tories are bracing themselves for a miserable night, due to this first matter, compounded by the fact that the last time these seats were up for election was when Brown’s Labour government was in terminal decline. Labour will be hoping to mark a staging post on their return to government, but UKIP may well spoil their night too.

The Tories have been flailing around erratically, seeking a strategy to put a stop to UKIP. Ken Clarke called them clowns without any policies, but this was rebuked by, amongst others Norman Tebbit, who advised conservatives to vote UKIP if this was the best way to keep out the socialists. Meanwhile Boris Johnson and Daniel Hannan played similar tunes, that UKIP’s merry band are not the enemy, but rather a part of the right-of-centre family who need to be reconciled. The problem with this way of thinking is that UKIP is closer in resemblance to a divorced wife than an estranged sibling, and in this case, the blood doesn’t run thicker than water, as Chris Huhne recently discovered to his cost.

The Tories suffering from defections to UKIP is pretty much a “known known”. What is far more interesting is whether UKIP can jump the species barrier and take significant votes from Labour. There’s no real reason why they should not do so. Old Labour voters are often socially conservative, and back before the days of Kinnock and Delors they were pretty solidly Eurosceptic. Furthermore, hostility towards large-scale immigration has always been stronger amongst the working classes who comprise the party’s base, than the chattering Islingtonians who run it. Most importantly, UKIP are not hated across vast swathes of the country as the Tories continue to be.

As for the Lib Dem, I suspect that their vote will hold up due to their local organisation.

Finally, I will be keeping an eye on the Uttoxeter result, in the hope that Gavin Webb of the Independent Libertarian Network will gain a seat or two, so any libertarians in that manor be sure to vote early and vote often.

8 Comments

  1. I’ll put my neck out with some predictions:

    UKIP – 21% vote share in local elections, 120 seats gained;
    35% vote share in South Shields by election compared to 50% for Labour.

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  2. “Most importantly, UKIP are not hated across vast swathes of the country as the Tories continue to be.”

    Indeed.

    There is a sense in which David Cameron will never be able to detoxify the Tory brand. Indeed a lot of people will see the brand as even more toxic under his leadership simply because he is an old Etonian.

    However much one dislikes prejudice – whether against toffs, or Tories, or whoever – it is still a fact of life. And while the Conservative Party may try to toxifiy the UKIP brand, the Tory brand is still more toxic than the UKIP brand for vast numbers of voters.

    I’ll still be a little surprised if UKIP get 35% in South Shields, though. 🙂

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  3. News of Uttoxeter:

    Gavin Webb got 108 votes (4%) – coming fourth of four – behind the Conservative, Labour, and UKIP candidates.

    Melanie Wilson got 248 votes (7%) – coming third of three – behind the Conservative and Labour candidates.

    I do wonder if they would have had more support if they had simply stood as independents.

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      1. Richard, it seems to me that the psychology of voters is such that some political labels inspire more trust than others. Among some, the label “The Conservative Party Candidate” inspires great trust – while among others, it inspires complete loathing. Ditto “The Labour Party Candidate.”

        Broadly speaking, the label of a major political party inspires trust. Many years ago, as a 21 year old undergraduate, in a local council election, I got 19% of those who bothered to vote to support me, simply because I had been nominated by a major party. I did not live in the ward, I had little in the way of life experience, I was not a local boy – my family lived hundreds of miles away. (I didn’t do much campaigning, either, since I didn’t want to be elected!) My father asked “Who would vote for you?” But I got 19% of the vote, because of my party label.

        The curious thing is that (at least in local council elections), the word “independent” often goes down well with quite a lot of voters – particularly in rural areas. And if the candidate is local and well-known (and respected), independents can often do well.

        Minor parties, on the other hand – the ones that nobody has ever heard of – inspire very little trust. In fact, among a lot of people they inspire suspicion.

        Most voters would take one look at the words “Independent Libertarian Network” and think “weirdo” – or, at best, “Who are they?”

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      2. I think the label would have been ‘Independent Libertarian’, with the hope that the independent part would have the positive connotation you mention. Also, I would think that Gavin would have aimed to get his message out, so people would know who he was and what he stood for. It hasn’t had a good effect this time, but that’s the way it goes. We’re lumbered with a minority opinion!

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  4. Man i really wish Nigel could express more of his Libertarianism. But this country’s atmosphere is so socialist i think it would be political suicide. How to we get out of this pit?

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