Politics Magazine

UKIP on 14%? Why The Left Shouldn’t Worry

Posted on the 19 December 2012 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Polling data published in last week’s Independent on Sunday reveals an unprecedented state of affairs. Labour enjoy an 11% lead (no surprise there) over the Conservatives, who are on a level of 28%- below that which John Major got in his crushing 1997 defeat. Then we get to the interesting part: the Liberal Democrats are on just 9%, behind UKIP on a record high of 14%. Other polls indicate a broadly similar state of affairs. And though this must be seen as what it is: mid-term surveying which is only semi-accurate, the undeniable fact is that this rabid right collective is currently the third most popular party in Britain.

To a progressive like me, it is unsettling to watch the British Tea Party enjoy such high levels of support. But just suppose that this popularity held up… In fact, most of the effects would be beneficial to the left. Let’s start with the most obvious advantage. Most of UKIPs supporters have been won over from the Conservatives, and every vote that has gone to them might as well go to Labour. The combined support of the right wing parties (excluding the Liberal Democrats) is 42%, 3 points above Labour. Nigel Farage and co. are providing a vital public service. Vote purple, get red.

That is the dry electoral mathematics of the situation. But there are other effects that the new third party would have. The Tories now find themselves squeezed by UKIP to the further right and the Liberal Democrats on the softer right, and will have to decide which wing to pander to. Given that they have tried and failed to move to the centre ground, they are likely to regress to the Thacherite populist strategy, with dire effects on the moderate wing of their support base. The right in Britain has been slowly declining for 20 years, (even though they have still scraped into office) and appealing inwards is just zero-sum politics.

UKIPs popularity will encourage politicians to address the matter of Britain’s relationship with Europe. I am personally a Eurosceptic, but would welcome a national debate with a bit more substance to it than complaints about metricisation, talk of fuzzy “ideals” (as if this generation of politicians are capable of having ideals) and the Prime Minister making tantric sex references (I’d advise you to do a web search if you didn’t hear about this). If it takes a bunch of Europhobic nutters to force the rest of the nation to consider properly what we want from Europe and what our place in it to be, then that is fine by me.

I’d just finish by saying that I doubt this 14% will materialise at the next General Election. We Brits like to moan, but it seldom materialises into action. Especially if the action is voting for a party which wants to turn the clock back 60 years, to when corporal and capital punishment were permitted (very different, but both are wrong), to when gay people had to keep their identities secret, and to before proper employment rights.

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