In years to come, when we look back at 2014, we will see it as the year of two political parties – UKIP and the SNP. 2013 saw UKIP break through into local councils and creep up the opinion polls. 2014, however saw the party consistently in third place in opinion polls from every major polling company, win the European elections and win two seats in parliament at by-elections. This was an unprecedented performance and has begun to fundamentally shift the nature of British politics, both in policy terms, but also in how we understand electoral behaviour.
by Chris Jarvis
1. UKIP will win between 10-15% of the vote in May
All pollsters had UKIP at somewhere between 12 and 18% in their final polls of the year. Which of these is more accurate, is impossible to know – we are in uncharted territory in terms of using opinion polls to predict a UKIP result of significance in a general election. However, what is likely is that in the final few days of the election campaign, a fairly sizeable amount of those currently saying they will vote UKIP will get cold feet, and vote for one of the traditional ‘big three’ parties. Traditional Labour currently flirting with UKIP will fear that in doing so they will let the Tories in and vice versa. Tactical voting will slim the UKIP vote in the election, but not by much.
2. UKIP will win five or fewer seats
The political ‘earthquake’ that will be caused by UKIP in 2015 will, in terms of parliamentary representation, be more of a minor tremor. Even if, as is currently probable, they poll above the Liberal Democrats, the seats they win will be fractional by comparison. None of the seats UKIP are targeting, with the exception of Clacton, are by any stretch of the imagination dead certs. It is possible that come the General Election, the newly won seat of Rochester and Strood will also revert back to the Tories, and UKIP could fail to take any others. Lord Ashcroft has shown UKIP ahead only in two seats – Thanet South and Thurrock, but only by 4% and 6% respectively. Other UKIP targets see them 2 or 3 points behind Labour or the Tories.
3. Nigel Farage will not be an MP in 2015
Although Ashcroft has UKIP in the lead in Thanet South, and Nigel Farage’s candidacy should theoretically boost support for the party, the Tories should hold it – just. There are a number of other seats that UKIP are more likely to take – Great Yarmouth, Dudley North or Great Grimsby where political disenchantment and disillusionment is far greater or Thurrock where the party has had a history and a base.
4. UKIP could end up continuing Tory government
If the Tories emerge as the largest single party in the election, the number they are short of a majority could force them to turn towards UKIP, potentially in conjunction with the Liberal Democrats and the DUP. Although at this stage unlikely, the demands UKIP would place on such a coalition or agreement taking place would, in order of probability be: an immediate referendum on EU membership, a much harsher immigration and asylum system, a tougher stance on welfare claimants, a move away from green energy. In the event that this did take place, it’s likely that their poll rating would begin to trickle away as their anti-establishment presentation status would diminish.
5. UKIP will dance around 20 points in the polls, but never pass it
Provided nothing drastic changes between now and December 2015, support for UKIP will continue to rise, pushing closer to 20% in most opinion polls. At this point, they will begin to plateau. For a party like UKIP with much of its appeal based on its perceived cultural values, rather than a thought out ideology or policy programme, they will eventually reach a saturation point in terms of the amount of the electorate they can absorb. At this stage, it will be incumbent on them to shift the perception of what they are really about, but we won’t see that shift happen in 2015.
6. Frustration with the Tory leadership over the EU could lead to more defections
Should the Tories win the election and flounder over Europe, or lose the election and drift to a more Europhilic stance, dissent on the backbenches could lead to further defections to UKIP. This is all the more likely if they have a good election and secure a handful of MPs, as the precarity of fighting an election under the banner of UKIP will be lessened. If we see more defections and a growing UKIP parliamentary party, the Tory will therefore be likely to tack rightwards.
What does this mean?
UKIP are vile; utterly repugnant and undeniably vile. As such, an election which could produce five MPs for the party that peddles hate, fear and scapegoating is an election to greet with regret and anger. The rise of UKIP which we will undoubtedly constitute a move rightwards for the Conservatives. That is a given, as they try to stop the insurgency. What is more interesting and more important, however, is the impact UKIP has on the Labour Party. Should Labour pander and succumb to the views of a party that wrongly accuses migration, welfare and Brussels for all of Britain’s ills? Or should they instead stand strongly against that and fight UKIP head on – winning the argument and reshaping the political dynamic?
We will start to see what path is taken in 2015. The true test of the impact of UKIP is not the affect they have on their allies, but instead their enemies.