The Crutch and the Wound

John Rentoul

NigelFarage11 300x200 The Crutch and the WoundEd Miliband has gained one group of voters and David Cameron has lost another: my column for The Independent on Sunday looked at how the two leaders have dealt with their respective defectors, incoming and outgoing. I cited an analysis by David Cowling, the BBC’s polling analyst, which said:

Two groups have shaped voting intention opinion polls for some time now: 2010 Lib Dem defectors to Labour; and 2010 Conservative defectors to UKIP. Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University has dubbed the former as Labour’s “Crutch”: I regard the latter as the Conservative Party’s “Wound”.

Cowling looked at Michael Ashcroft’s polling on the question of whether UKIP supporters are put off by the Tory argument that “a vote for UKIP is a vote for Miliband”:

For me, the most important part of this finding is not that broadly half of UKIP voters reject the assertion at the very heart of it, but that two-thirds of those 2010 Conservative defectors who do accept their vote for UKIP increases the prospects of Ed Miliband becoming Prime Minister say this makes no difference to how they intend to vote. How on earth does Lynton Crosby put the fear of God into atheists?

I also referred to new polling by the British Election Study, which suggested that the UKIP vote would hold up better in next year’s general election than it did between the last European and general elections in 2009-10.

More than half of people (57.6%) intending to vote for UKIP this month also intend to vote for it in the 2015 general election. At this stage in 2009, only 25.5% of those who intended to vote UKIP in the 2009 European election intended to stick with the party in the 2010 UK general election. Ignoring different turnout, this was quite an accurate prediction, as 25.5% of UKIP’s 2009 vote 16.5% is 4.2% as against UKIP’s actual vote in 2010 of 3.5%.

If we apply the same ratios this time, and assume that UKIP get 30% in European Parliament election this month, that would suggest a UKIP vote of 14.4% in the general election next year. In other words, close to UKIP’s current general election voting intention average of 15%.

This is all fine and democratic, given that all the other parties are in favour of British membership of the EU. The party is making an argument about the EU that ought to be debated. I do not accept that UKIP is essentially racist, although it does tend to attract a lot of people who are. On this, I agree with Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, who pointed out in a good speech last week that racism in Britain has declined a great deal in recent decades.

Even so, my argument that UKIP is finished holds. No matter how well it does on 22 May or the Newark by-election on 5 June, the party will cease to have a purpose after the general election, in which it will win at most one seat. I repeated this on Sky News just now, predicting that in five years’ time we will have forgotten who Nigel Farage is.

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  • Rallan

    “I repeated this on Sky News just now, predicting that in five years’ time we will have forgotten who Nigel Farage is.”

    And I bet your favourite economist is David Blanchflower.

  • bill smith65

    You do not seem to have grasped the true mood of the electorate in that things are very differnet to that of 2009 – 10. There is now a belief that UKIP is main stream and not just protest and therefore fit for UK parliament. Also, it’s a bit premature to make your comments without experiencing the policies and campaigning for GE 15.

  • Pacificweather

    What is not surprising is that a Blairite is content the 14.4% of the electorate should be disenfranchised. Why concern yourself with democracy when two thirds of the electorate voted to have their MPs elected by a minority of their constituents. That is also two thirds of (more likely 90%) of UKIP voters.

  • Pacificweather

    How did you vote in the referendum in May 2011?

  • Pacificweather

    JR has already forgotten David Blanchflower. Most of us remember Danny.

  • porkfright

    UKIP is a protest movement against the metropolitan usual suspects AKA the Oxbridge crowd, and also the undemocratic nature of the E.U.


    Is Cowling’s analysis credible in the light of the latest polls for GE 2015. Given that historically the polls will only go one way from here (e.g. Labour lower) only one answer comes to my mind. Also, did he differentiate between UKIP’s ex Tory voters in marginal and non-marginal seats?

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