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.