Peter Riddell writes an article for The Times this morning in which he says that the Tories have little to fear from UKIP. He notes that UKIP support stands at only 1.5% in recent Populus surveys and that the "the real danger for the Tories is among former Labour and LibDem supporters who might return to their earlier party loyalties if they conclude that Mr Cameron is not providing a strong enough lead or clear enough direction."
A few observations about Mr Riddell's article:
- I've already written about the risks of talking about UKIP's agenda. The Greens have grown in support as the environment has topped the political agenda and the same could happen to UKIP's support if Europe came back to dominate Tory speeches and announcements.
- Gordon Brown could choose to go to the country on the same day as the next European Elections. This could boost UKIP and make Europe more of an issue at the next General Election.
- Why do commentators always have to suggest that there is a deep conflict between appealing to potential UKIP supporters and LibDems/ Greens? Most west country LibDem voters and most Greens share Eurosceptics' dislike of the EU. More significantly it is possible to address most constituencies simultaneously through the 'politics of and'. Most Britons believe in strictly controlled immigration and want to invest in medicine and food aid to the world's poorest people. Most voters believe that gay couples deserve fairness and they believe that traditional marriage isn't properly supported by Government. Tony Blair was at its electorally most formidable when he was greedy for all political territory. He did not allow the Tories to develop advantages in any major policy area. That must be the challenge for the Tories - we must want to dominate political debate from environmental and social justice questions on the one hand to immigration and defence questions on the other. There are, of course, important choices in politics. You can't keep everyone happy all of the time but we should be less willing to accept the simplistic notion that appealing to the concerns of more right-leaning voters inevitably undermines more centrist sources of support.
- Finally the UKIP danger isn't the big one for Mr Cameron. The bigger danger is the stay-at-home vote. YouGov's Stephan Shakespeare has written that Project Cameron is perfectly pitched for the voters floating between the three main parties but the risk is that as the parties become more and more similar those people floating between voting and not voting at all will grow. And the fear is that it is right-leaning voters who are most vulnerable to staying-at-home. The traditional belief is that the 40% of people who don't vote in elections are more left-wing than right-wing. That's probably true but there is a good case to be made that the population that is on the edge of voting and non-voting is more conservative/ right-leaning. The danger for Cameron is in this group - not so much with UKIP although the summation of all the factors could be critical in a tight electoral contests.