Ukip may well win a seat in May 2015. But the least likely person to get elected is Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage, Leader, UK Independence Party (UKIP)This week saw the latest in Lord Ashcroft’s polls of the marginal battleground seats that will decide the result of the next general election. This crop focused on 14 marginal Conservative-held seats where Labour are in second place.

The overall news was half-encouraging for Labour. As it stands, Ed Miliband’s party is poised to win 11 of these 14 seats next May. The average swing from Tory to Labour of 4.5% would be enough to win 53 Tory seats, which, as as Ashcroft notes, “combined with the 17 seats my recent polling suggested they could gain from the Lib Dems, would be enough for a small overall majority”.

Of course, this poll is a snapshot, not a prediction (as Ashcroft repeatedly stresses). A similar exercise conducted by Ashcroft for PoliticsHome in 2009 pointed to a Tory majority of 70 seats and we all know how that turned out a few months later. Usually the governing party picks up support as the election nears, while the opposition party loses support. We’ll see how that historical pattern bears out in Coalition conditions and as voting becomes yet more fragmented between five national parties, as well as the nationalists in Scotland and Wales.

But the most newsworthy finding from Ashcroft’s poll was that Ukip would win two Conservative-held seats, Thanet South and Thurrock.

In Thurrock, where the party won five councillors in May, Ukip has already selected a candidate, Tim Aker MEP. The poll finds Ukip support at 36%, ahead of Labour on 30% and the Tories pushed back into third place on 28%.

Thanet South, where Ukip won seven out of eight councillors in 2013, is expected to be the seat for which Nigel Farage finally plumps. There Ukip support stood at 33%, with Labour and the Tories tied on 29%.

If I was a betting man — and I’m not: my one and only political bet was on Iain Duncan Smith being elected Tory leader at 14/1 so I decided to end my betting career on a high — I’d bet against Nigel Farage being elected anywhere as an MP in 2015. Quite simply, he’s too toxic to too many voters.

There were some who claimed that had he stood in Eastleigh in the February 2013 by-election, Ukip would have won. It is far more likely, though, that one of the reasons Ukip came so close to winning was because Nigel Farage didn’t stand. Instead, Ukip wisely selected the sensible-sounding Diane James.

In the recent Newark by-election, Ukip did select a high-profile candidate, Roger Helmer. Though they did well to come second, they once again fell some way short of polling even 30%, the minimum share of the vote needed to win a seat. As I noted then:

There is anecdotal evidence that Ukip, the new protest vote party, has generated its own protest vote: both Labour and Lib Dem canvassers reported voters saying they would hold their noses and vote Tory to make sure Nigel Farage was thwarted.

If that were true of Mr Helmer, it will be true in spades of Nigel Farage. It’s true that in Newark the by-election soon became a two-horse race between the Tories and Ukip, whereas both Thurrock and Thanet South now appear to be three-way marginals which complicates anti-Ukip tactical voting. It is possible, therefore, that Mr Farage could slip through the middle. But overall I think it’s far more likely that his presence on the ticket will solidify support for both Labour and the Tories (the latter of which has savvily selected a former Ukip leader as their candidate in Thanet South).

So yes, Ukip may well get an MP (or more than one) elected next May. Just don’t expect the name Farage to be on their roll-call of honour.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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This entry was posted in News and Polls.


  • As far as I know the only recent Academic research into whether UKIP can win seats suggests that they need to be on 16% Nationally to have any chance . UK Polling Report have UKIP currently averaging 12%, roughly where they were before May. They will not win any seats as things stand.

  • It’s more complicated than that. Even in their heartlands, UKIP cannot get much above 30%, and there are a sizeable number of people prepared to vote for one of the big two (or three?) to stop them – I’d probably count myself in that group if push came to shove. UKIP are the most disliked party in British politics according to recent polling, just edging us.

    In Newark, it was obvious which way these voters should go – and they did so in droves. The beauty of a Thurrock or a Thanet South for them is that there’s no such clarity. If you want to stop UKIP, do you vote Labour or Conservative? Both Lab and Con will claim that only they can stop the other, they will both be lying. If they split equally, it’s very possible that the 30% will be enough to let UKIP edge it, and that’s exactly what Lord Ashcroft’s polling found.

    I would not bet against UKIP in either seat, but would happily do so in the Newarks and Rotherhams of this world, as it’s clear who to vote for to stop them.

  • “It’s more complicated than that.”
    Indeed it is. Several things are at play here. Just a few.
    Several people I know voted Ukip in May but declared that they might go back to either not voting, or back to their previous political choice. But having seen how voting Ukip upset the Westminster apple cart in May, and liking that powerful ‘scent of blood’, have declared to me, that they might well do it again.
    During this quiet period over summer, Ukip is restructuring, and broadening out their ‘front bench’. They are also developing policy into a manifesto for September (ish). I suspect a few of those policies will be *very* popular and have the instant vote grabbing appeal. The most obvious one is to promise an abolition of the TV licence in 2016. The BBC is seen by many ‘disgruntled’, as the mouthpiece of the establishment and the elite ‘metropolis’ anyway, so it is an very easy pledge to hit, and a massive vote ‘magnet’.. There are others, but it will be worth the wait till late autumn.
    Ukip Seats,…! Where are the Ukip MP’s seats ? Do seats really matter as much as you think, or is it not better to get your Ukip policy through no matter who’s bottom is on the seat? Tory and Labour cannot be certain of victory unless they do a deal with Ukip or more likely, steal some of Ukip’s ‘policy’ clothes. For example does Farage really need to stand in Thanet South when the Conservatives are putting up a ‘Ukip policy minded’, former Ukip leader Craig Mackinlay?
    It’s going to be a very complicated, and very interesting 10 months.

  • You Lib Dems are being staggeringly complacent. UKIP have stolen your position as the ‘none of the above’ party by representing the opinions, aspirations and concerns of the real rank-and-file voters in this country. Political Correctness is dead yet it seems to be all you have to offer.

  • More proof of the flight to extremes seen at present. On the one side you have the raging deficit denialists on the left of the Labour Party and also those who have gone one stage further decamped to the Greens. For them, the deficit is simply an accounting definition with no consequences or it can easily be sorted out in a couple of years by simply whacking up taxes on the rich and the bankers without any cuts to public spending at all.

    On the other hand, we have another simplistic approach from UKIP. It’s not the fault of the rich, it’s the fault of foreigners, whether in our country or outside it.

    Anyone who doesn’t or can’t take part in this simplistic blame game, offering equally simplistic, extreme solutions, can’t get their voters into the polling booths. While many voters may place themselves in the middle ground, the opinion poll ratings of the parties would suggest otherwise.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Jul '14 - 3:22pm

    “paul barker :

    As far as I know the only recent Academic research into whether UKIP can win seats suggests that they need to be on 16% Nationally to have any chance .”

    And what did they say about George Galloway?

    There is little worse than people who know zilch about real politics quoting people who know zilch about real politics.

    btw my only bet EVER was on David Alton winning the by-election in March1979. It would irritate the backside off you to know what odds I received. Let’s just say the punters in William Hill in Southport when they overheard me collecting my cash (put on in Liverpool) didn’t believe any outsiders got such odds.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jul '14 - 3:50pm

    Stephen Tall

    But the most newsworthy finding from Ashcroft’s poll was that Ukip would win two Conservative-held seats, Thanet South and Thurrock.

    This is an indication of the utter failure of the political left in this country. It has been taken over by trendy poseurs who do not know how to talk to working-class people, and are obsessed with issues that don’t matter much to most working-class people. The problem is particularly acute in the south where there never was much of the old trade union based Labour culture in the first place. Thurrock and Thanet are places where people are not wealthy, where people don’t really like the Conservatives and what they stand for, but sometimes vote for them because they don’t see Labour as any better or more relevant to their lives. There is nothing coming out of the Liberal Democrats right now which appeals to them much either.

    Go to such places and you will find some quite striking left-wing opinions coming from many of the people living there – about how the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, and how society needs a big change to give people like them a chance. But the idea that such a big change might come through the ballot box just does not occur to them. UKIP has managed to fill in the gap a bit, but in a completely fraudulent way. The problems the people there feel they have in their lives have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU, and the extreme right-wing economics that is what UKIP is really about underneath would make them worse.

  • It is not UKIP we should be talking about but OURSELVES. This poll of 15 Con/Lab marginals gives us an average of 3.7%, think my maths is right. It says we are in 5th place in at least 4 of them, including Lancaster where despite the Con/Lab nature of the seat we always had an active party with a number of councilors, and some useful general election results in 1987 and last time. We are no longer a national party and are being ignored by most of the electorate. This week we AGAIN cannot find candidates for some council by elections,
    The position is atrocious. We may be helping to heal the countries economy but there is no nothing in that for us. Without that what have we, what are we? The public give the credit to the Conservatives over the economy , we hardly figure, except to go on the Sunday Brunch!! Just about sums us up.
    YET WHO CARES, WHO GIVES A DAMN, certainly not the parliamentary party it seems, it just seems that like the leader and HQ they too are lost in a sea of indifference.
    I AM NOW BEGINNING TO FEAR A GENERAL ELECTION WHITEWASH NEXT MAY, Stephen may be running round more than Whitehall, I hope he is in training.

  • The 2009 poll was not carried out by Lord Ashcroft

  • Someone said that when I used that word before the Euros.
    If we do not face the worst we will not achieve anything. I used to think we could win this seat etc etc. It is a dream now it is question of holding anything, anything at all. I am fearful, I know it hurts to say it but there we are, we have got ourselves into this situation and have a real problem, We seem to have no idea how to get out.

  • David Evans 24th Jul '14 - 5:42pm

    We do have an idea Theakes. The problem is that it entails doing something, and sadly Nick and his supporters have successfully terrified a lot of our members out of it with talk of a divided party failing. However, doing nothing is the worst option of all and the only reason we appear united is because so many have left. Those who realise how bad things are have to fight back.

  • Aye David,someone said to me it is like Nero whilst Rome burns, only Ithink in this case it is worse, Pompeii as Vesuvius descended on the City.,

  • Steven Chilton 24th Jul '14 - 8:50pm

    Conversely, Farage’s name on the candidates list will encourage many who would otherwise vote Tory or Traditional Working Class Old Labour voters to vote for him instead. Tory voters prefer Farage to Cameron by a mile, and they would abandon party loyalty and vote for Farage on a scale that they would not do so if it was any other UKIP candidate. I personally think the talk of a ‘UKIP backlash’ was over hyped, and possibly directed at the candidate, Roger Helmer, rather than the Party. It was a very strange choice selecting Helmer for the by-election, but it’s what the local UKIP branch wanted from what I read.

    I personally know of many Tory activists who are on the verge of joining UKIP, Cameron has tested party loyalty too far, and should Farage stand in their local constituency I expect many would abandon ship or refuse to campaign against him. In a south East seat with an almost non existent Labour party, the Lib Dems in terminal decline and a squeezed Tory vote, Farage would easily win any such contest. Many of the Labour voters, who usually vote Lib Dem tactically, would probably vote UKIP just to spite the Tories.

  • Richard Church 24th Jul '14 - 9:14pm

    Just got back from an evening’s canvassing in a winnable seat to be reminded of ‘Private Fraser’ Theakes opinion that we are all doomed. Doomed, doooomed!

    The only remedy for that is to get out into a held or winnable constituency, knock on some doors, make some telephone calls or deliver some leaflets. Repeating the dooomed message endlessly might pleasurably remind us of some classic comedy, but otherwise serves little purpose.

  • David Evans 25th Jul '14 - 7:59am

    Richard, your comment would almost be funny in itself, if it bore any resemblance to the facts – 1 MEP. “Get out and knock on some doors, make some telephone calls or deliver some leaflets” did nothing for the 10 MEPs we lost, and it will do nothing for a great many MPs in 2015, unless we do something about the root cause of the problem – Nick.

    Don’t mock those trying to fix the problem. They are trying to save people like you from the consequences of your inaction on this key issue.

  • Richard: it is reality, look at Doncaster last night, where was the Liberal Democrat candidate, did we have one? And this in an area where we were the main opposition not so long ago. The economy going great but its the ” Conservatives stupid”, who are and will increasingly get the credit. It is sad but reality. At the moment there is no way out of the trap we are in, unless we make a dramatic change and that is the Leadership. Then we may have a chance of refocusing with a different image and message. The “betrayal ” one haunts us and will not go whilst the present leader is the leader.

  • Tony Dawson 25th Jul '14 - 4:08pm

    @David Evans

    “Get out and knock on some doors, make some telephone calls or deliver some leaflets” did nothing for the 10 MEPs we lost, and it will do nothing for a great many MPs in 2015, unless we do something about the root cause of the problem – Nick”.

    To be fair, David, unless we have a TOTAL meltdown which washes away everyone, including Tim Farron and John Pugh, as well as those MPs in the current crop who are similar to those washed away in 2005, then getting out and knocking on doors is still a good thing to be advising. Such activity could well make the difference in four or five constituencies – but no more. It does, though, betray a certain arrogance to assume that Lib Dems across the nation are so good that they can win elections with a little extra doorstep activity despite having a large albatross hung around our collective necks.

  • 2015 will show if the polls are correct but I would be very reluctant knocking Farage out of the race I have a sneaky feeling he will have lots of volunteers that will go knocking

  • “don’t expect the name Farage to be on their roll-call of honour”
    A Tall story indeed

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