Analysis: Coalition may have its troubles after Ukip's rise - but Ed Miliband still has to prove he can capitalise on them

 

Many a Conservative MP feared the worst when the local ballot boxes were opened. Their concerns were fully realised.

The UK Independence Party won on average 25 per cent of the vote, by far its best ever election performance, easily eclipsing the 16 per cent it won in the 2004 and 2009 European elections. As anticipated, given its socially conservative stance on everything from gay marriage to immigration, the party typically did best in places where pensioners are plentiful and university graduates thin on the ground.

In doing so well, Ukip confounded expectations that while it might win votes it would end up with few seats. Before yesterday, there were just 24 Ukip councillors across Britain. On Thursday, the party gained over 100.

Ukip’s vote increased largely regardless of whether a ward was previously a Conservative or a Labour stronghold. Nevertheless, the Conservatives were clearly the biggest losers from the Ukip surge. A particularly strong Ukip advance made a 12-point difference to the Tory vote, whereas the equivalent figures for the Liberal Democrats and Labour were six points and five points respectively.

More generally, not only was the Conservative vote on average nine points lower than four years ago, but where a systematic comparison could be made it was also four points lower than in last year’s local elections. The BBC estimated the Tories’ performance was worth just 25 per cent of the vote in a general election, a rating equal to the worst the party ever suffered under John Major’s administration, and far too close for comfort to the 23 per accorded to Ukip.

However, once again it was the Tories’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, who suffered the biggest drubbing. Overall, their vote was down on four years ago by no less than 12 points. Moreover there was no evidence that the party’s vote was holding up better in its strongholds; its vote went down by 14 points in wards where they won over 45 per cent of the vote in 2009.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats suffered the ignominy of winning just 1.4 per cent of the vote and coming seventh in South Shields, the party’s worst ever performance in a post-war English parliamentary election. Hopes that Eastleigh represented a turning point in the party’s fortunes have evaporated.

Labour did manage to increase its share of the vote in the local elections (though not in South Shields). Given how badly the party did in 2009, some progress was inevitable. But an average eight-point increase on 2009 was insufficient to quell the doubts about whether the party has done enough to win voters’ hearts.

In most places Labour’s vote was still down on what it achieved when these councils were fought over on the same day as the 2005 general election. The BBC estimated its projected share as just 29 per cent – well short of what it achieved in the years immediately preceding its 1997 general election success. The Coalition may have its troubles – but Ed Miliband still has to prove he can capitalise on them.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Defendant Personal Injury 2+PQE

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - NICHE DEFENDANT FIRM - Defendant Pe...

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on