Paul Nuttall, the party's new leader, has made this his aimby John Curtice / December 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
UKIP’s new leader, Paul Nuttall, has set out a clear and ambitious target for his party. “I want to replace the Labour Party and make Ukip the patriotic voice of working people,” he announced after his election victory was declared on Monday.
This ambition is being taken seriously. Unlike many Labour MPs, Nuttall does, after all, speak with a genuine working class accent. Meanwhile, who a few years ago would have anticipated that a party that was famously described by David Cameron a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” would succeed in achieving its ambition of securing an EU referendum in which a majority voted to “Leave” the EU? For all its recent political difficulties Ukip is a party that commends widespread respect if not necessarily admiration.
Moreover, at first glance there would appear to be good reason to believe that Nuttall could achieve his ambition. According to NatCen Social Research’s panel of British Social Attitudes survey respondents, no less than 63 per cent of working class voters voted to “Leave” the EU. In last year’s general election support for UKIP among working class voters was roughly twice that amongst graduates.
Of course, now that the UK is about to embark on leaving the EU, UKIP will have to find a new tune to sing. Most likely the party will attempt to become the voice of social conservatives, such as those concerned about the cultural change brought about by immigration and who take a tough line on law and order.
Such an appeal would seem tailor made to win over working class voters. For example, in the most recent British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey 56 per cent of those in routine or semi-routine occupations agreed that “For some crimes, the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence.” Only 22 per cent disagreed.
However, the days when “Labour” and “working class” were synonymous with each other are over. According to BSA well under half (45 per cent) of working class voters backed Labour in May 2015. And while that might have been a much higher level of support than the party secured amongst the electorate as a whole, only one in three of those who voted Labour in…