“Farage Fever” – a Labour opportunity in disguise?
The Tories have always had Labour on the argument about the EU.
Knowing which side of the fence a good majority of Tories sit on, regarding the European Union, they are able to draw political capital both from crises within the eurozone, but also look like the fighting party on getting a referendum put to parliament (and because the majority of the British public want a referendum and support leaving the European Union this doesn’t play havoc with the Tories one bit).
According to YouGov polls in October (pdf), if there were to be a referendum the next day 71% of those who voted Conservative in 2010 would have voted for the United Kingdom to leave the EU (compared with 41% in Labour). Further, 69% of those who intend to vote Conservative in the next election would vote the same (compared to 39% Labour).
There is a lot resting on the Tories to provide the right line on Europe to those who intend to vote for it next time – but this will come after a European election in 2014 where, let’s be honest, Ukip are going to do quite well.
This has sent Farage’s babes round the twist with excitement. One such member, Michael Heaver, wrote during one blog post:
According to the latest YouGov poll, some 11 percent of 2010 Tory voters now intend to switch to UKIP. And that’s only since last year. A smattering of highly credible 2010 Tory candidates such as Janice Atkinson-Small and Andrew Charalambous have switched sides as has Lord Hesketh, former Tory Treasurer and perhaps the biggest defection to UKIP in the young Party’s history.
For people like him, 2015 is set to be marked by “Farage Fever” – that is where the Liberal Democrats and their 7% polling “boom” will seem timid in comparison.
Yesterday, I was reading through Jon Worth’s article on LabourList, where he praised his Ukip interlocuteurs for, basically, not being mad and actually bringing some good information to the fore. This got me thinking.
Ukip are able to have a go at the Tories because they look lightweight on Europe and left-leaning in comparison with the political make-up of the general public as gleaned from polls. To Labour, the Tories will always be right wing, but more so because of their fiscal conservative rhetoric. So, Labour have the opportunity to do the unthinkable: split the right by saying something like “Ukip are wrong, but they look even more reasonable than the Tories these days” – or something to that effect.
Expect more backhanded complements to the Ukip now that they are actually a threat the Conservative party, but remember that they are at best unreconstructed Thatcherites (i.e. blind to the causes of today’s crises).