The rise of the Tea Party-esque UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the United Kingdom has often been attributed to a disillusionment within conservative circles. But recent evidence has highlighted that the political left, and the Labour Party in particular, may have just as much to fear as the Conservative Party does by way of disillusionment and defections.
While many have argued traditional right-wingers have lost their patience with Prime Minister David Cameron’s centrist ‘modernisation’ agenda and have defected to UKIP as a source of real right-wing policies, left-wingers also seem to be gravitating towards the UKIP.
UKIP took a Labour council seat in Sevenoaks in the south east of England last year, and its candidates have performed well in Barnsley and Rotherham–both Labour-friendly areas.
In recent months, Party insiders have communicated to me that they believe around 20 to 30 percent of their current support may come from former Labour voters, and given the commensurate decline in the left-wing liberal Democrat vote as UKIP’s has risen, there may be reason to believe that a few points are shifting that way, too, as voters search for a new protest party.
In The Observer, left-wing columnist Nick Cohen expresses his concerns over UKIP reaching Labour’s constituency, stating: “As local, European and parliamentary election results make clear, many [xenophobic voters] once voted Labour.” And while Cohen’s brusque smears against former left-leaning voters reveal a petulance that was scarcely evident when those so-called “xenophobes” voted Labour, his concerns over the white, working class vote are not without merit.
He goes on to write: “That [Nigel] Farage (UKIP’s leader), a City man, who offers nothing that might improve their living conditions or job security, can speak to them ought to be a matter of shame to the British left and a call to arms.”
Once again, Cohen’s need to litter his argument with jabs at UKIP’s policies, which actually may well do a lot to improve living conditions and job security, illustrates how tetchy Britain’s left-wing establishment is becoming at the thought of a strong UKIP showing in May’s European elections, and indeed the 2015 UK general election.
But there can be no doubt, despite the fact that UKIP is appealing to people across the political spectrum, that the real losers in 2015 could be both the Conservative Party and Britain as a country.
If conservative voters are still not charmed by Cameron’s agenda by 2015, and if his promised referendum on European Union membership is nowhere on the horizon, an exodus to UKIP could hand Ed Miliband’s Labour Party the election.
For this reason and more, conservatives should look to create local alliances with UKIPers in a tactical attempt to block the Labour Party in 2015. If UKIPers had enough sense, they would see that tactical alliances would also help them achieve their first seats in the British Parliament.
Sadly, however, it may well be the case that pride cometh before a fall for both parties. In 2015, Britain could be heralding its own Francois Hollande in the form of Ed Miliband. And then the real exodus will begin–of businesses, wealth creators, and the self-employed.