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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk