A considerable number of Tory voters are complemplating defecting to The UK Independence Party, at least that is what the polls tell us so far. Results from a ComRes poll found that up to a quarter of those who voted Conservative at the last election have either already made the switch to Ukip, or would at least be prepared to give Ukip the vote at the next election. Think tank YouGov are also reporting that as Conservatives continue to lose public support, Ukip are making — albeit modest — gains in the opinion polls.
Opinion polls cannot be read into too much as they are subject to dramatic changes, and as with all broad approximations of public attitudes, it is always those in power that are exposed the most to negative feedback. But Ukip’s trending success should be more than just a mild concern for Cameron — it should worry him a great deal.
The uncomfortable reality for Cameron is that in the battle to form a majority in the next election, Labour will no doubt be a recipient of a big fall out from left leaning Lib Dem voters, who in 2010 found themselves giddy for Clegg and turned off by Brown. If the Conservatives continue to poll poorly in the low 30’s heading toward the next general election, and the Lib Dems continue to plummet and subsequently strengthen Labour’s chances, Ukip’s emergence as a Tory alternative puts Cameron in all kinds of trouble. The Conservatives will not only see a defect of its own supporters, but the crucial undecided right leaning voter will also look to take their vote elsewhere.
This is not to say that Ukip are ready to be a major player in the next election — they still have some way to go in shifting the general perception that they are just a party with hostile feelings toward the EU — but they have reason to believe they can make a real go of being the voice of the disenfranchised tory voter. Just like Liberals who feel betrayed by Clegg’s incompetency, and the socialists contempt for Blair’s adherence to third way politics, there is also a key demographic of right-wing voters who feel entirely misrepresented by their leader. This subgroup represents voters who feel isolated because of their resistance to change, they tend to be a more angrier group, and hold dear their traditional social values against immigration.
With all this in mind, what can Ukip offer potential voters? Ukip are quick to try and distance themselves from the far-right, extremist policies of the BNP. But a report by Dr Matthew Goodwin and Professor Jocelyn Evans, titled ‘From Voting to Violence? Far Right Extremism in Britain’, and published in the Guardian earlier this year, found two very similar parties. The results focus on the feedback given from a right-wing “control” group made up by a large quantity of BNP and Ukip supporters in which an alarming three-fifths believed that violence was the appropriate means in which to protect the party from threats.
The report looked back on the 2010 election pledges from both the BNP and Ukip and found that both demanded an end to uncontrolled immigration, tighter border controls, and a fight to abolish multiculturalism.
The report tells a tale of Daily Mail type paranoia prevalent amongst both groups of supporters, forming a concept that both immigration and multiculturalism are the reasons for the country’s, and the west in general, downfall: ‘85% of them [Ukip supporters] disagreed with the suggestion that Islam does not pose a danger to the west, while the equivalent figure among the BNP group was only three points higher.’
Although Ukip are battling for third in the opinion polls, it is a distant third. Cameron should be worried that his voters and his MP’s are defecting because of what they see as an inability of their leader “to implement key Conservative policies.”