A strong showing by UKIP in European elections could spell trouble for the Tory voteby Peter Kellner / June 20, 2012 / Leave a comment
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To read James Macintyre’s full article on UKIP’s rise, click here
UKIP came fourth in 1999, third in 2004, and second in 2009. Is it possible that in the next elections to the European parliament in 2014, UKIP could come top?
The short answer is yes. Unless there is a big change in fortunes of the main political parties, I expect a close fight between UKIP and Labour for first place, both winning around 25 per cent, with the Conservatives trailing third on around 20 per cent. (The Lib Dems could find themselves struggling to avoid fifth place, behind the Greens; but that’s another story.)
This year’s local elections confirm the findings of YouGov’s voting intention surveys: UKIP is currently more popular than at any time in its history, outside the special circumstances of European election campaigns. If it keeps up its present polling support of around 8 per cent, it will enter the 2014 election with more support than before. It will also benefit from the fact that 2014 will see the first proportional-voting Euro-elections under a Tory prime minister. In the past three elections, most right-of-centre anti-government voters were likely to vote Conservative. Next time, many will be looking for a different way to register their discontent. They are unlikely to vote Labour, Lib Dem or Green, and the BNP’s recent internal feuding, declining membership and financial incompetence has cost it what little credibility it enjoyed a few years ago.
Fresh YouGov polling for Prospect confirms UKIP’s potential. We asked people how likely they were to consider voting for different parties, on a scale from zero (never consider it) to ten (definitely consider it). If we take a score of five or above as an indication of possible support, then Labour (54 per cent) comfortably leads the Tories (42 per cent). There is a close contest for third place between the Greens (35 per cent), the Lib Dems (33 per cent) and UKIP (31 per cent). The BNP, with just 12 per cent, trails a distant sixth. But among Tories, fully 40 per cent say they might, or will, consider voting UKIP.
That is the crucial number, for European elections play to UKIP’s strengths. Turnout is likely to be low, so a party that can mobilise voters who feel strongly about Europe stands to gain. If just one…