Are UKIP here to stay and do they have a long term strategy? Both are questions which have been asked about UKIP since their emergence on the political scene. UKIP’s recent fall in the polls has given weight to the argument they have reached their high water-mark and are on their way down. This however ignores the way our political system works.
For a long time in many Northern heartlands, Labour has faced no real opposition. The perception of the Tories as a party for the rich means they have struggled, and continue to struggle, in the North. The Liberal Democrats have been slightly more successful, but are likely to be hurt by their period in government and could effectively be wiped out in 2015. This leaves an opening for UKIP to exploit. Although unlikely to win many seats this time around, UKIP are likely to finish second in many of the large cities in the North, making them the only real opposition to Labour. This provides a platform to build on for future elections and enables them to benefit from any future disillusionment with a Labour government.
UKIP’s rise in the North is likely to be helped by a Labour led administration after the next election. Labour are committed to harsh economic cuts which are likely to anger many of their more traditional voters. Labour is not offering an EU referendum and with tensions running high, this gives UKIP another dividing line with Labour and enables them to continue their focus on immigration and the EU. The scenario of more cuts and continued high immigration would place UKIP in a position where they could benefit from the disgruntlement felt by many Labour traditionalists and pick up a number of seats in 2020.
Any prediction of UKIP’s demise is surely premature. They were never likely to maintain the high poll ratings they received over the course of last year, but that does not mean they cannot be successful. The nuances of our electoral system mean a political party is rewarded for having concentrated support in specific areas. If they are able to establish themselves as the main opposition to Labour in the North, this is the position UKIP will find itself in after 2015. They would then be in prime position to reap the rewards in the 2020 General Election.
Article by Mike Hough
Photo – Max Albeldo