Tory activists considering voting Ukip in May - and may never come back

Political Editor

More than one in three Conservative Party members are seriously considering voting for the UK Independence Party in next month’s European elections, according to a new study.

These alienated Conservative activists are not only attracted by Ukip’s stance on Europe and immigration. They are also motivated by a dislike of David Cameron because they see him as “centrist” and “liberal” - with his social liberalism shown though his support for gay marriage.

The authors warn that for this group, voting Ukip in the Euro elections may not be a one-off protest, as the Conservatives hope, but a first step towards leaving the Tories and joining Nigel Farage’s party. This would boost Ukip’s prospects at next year’s general election, giving it more footsoldiers on the ground.

The research found that the grassroots Tories most tempted by Ukip lean a little more to the left than their fellow members on the economy and public services. But they are significantly more conservative “culturally and socially”.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, a co-author of the study, said: “Voting for Ukip could be the first step on a road that sees some Tory members eventually joining Nigel Farage’s party. That might provide Ukip with a stream of experienced activists who could boost its already effective insurgent campaign. If that happens, the next general election is going to be very difficult indeed for David Cameron.”

Prof Bale added: “Members may be more ideological than most voters, but if they don’t feel they’re getting what they want from leaders who they can’t identify with then – just like more and more voters these days – they prepared to take a punt on what they see as a more attractive alternative. This really challenges our assumptions about grassroots members in Britain and other countries. The common wisdom says that they’re a guaranteed source of votes for their party. But it looks like a combination of policy concerns and ideological differences with their leader can trump their institutional loyalty.”


The study, based on a YouGov survey of 850 Tory members, found that those most likely to vote Ukip are significantly to the left of those Tories least likely to switch but are also “significantly more socially authoritarian”. So it seems that their “cultural conservatism” rather than their politics draws them towards Ukip.

“They are particularly concerned about immigration and the EU. Perhaps most alarmingly for the [Conservative] party, they do not feel valued or respected by their own leadership, while they regard David Cameron - their own party leader and the country’s prime minister - as ideologically more remote from them than Ukip,” says the study, reported in the journal Political Studies.

Prof Bale and his co-author Paul Webb, professor of politics at Sussex University, said the Tory activists’ views may not necessarily be shared by the party’s supporters who are not members. On the other hand, if a significant number of Tory supporters do share them, that would be “cold comfort” because they would have “no institutional bonds of loyalty”.

They warned Mr Cameron it would be a mistake to match the offer from the “populist radical right” because the number of “culturally conservative” voters is likely to shrink over time. And Ukip could respond by simply “upping the ante”.

Conservative strategists hope to woo back potential Ukip voters by focusing on the improving economy, immigration and welfare in the Euro election campaign and underlining Mr Cameron’s pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Europe in 2017.

However, the antipathy towards Mr Cameron revealed in the study could make Tory waverers doubt his promise on Monday that he would not remain prime minister after the general election if he could not deliver a referendum.

Meanwhile, Ukip has begun expulsion procedures against two members after an internal investigation found that one had been a member of the BNP and the other had given money to the English Defence League, organisations incompatible with Ukip membership.

William Henwood, who was a Ukip candidate in Enfield in next month’s London borough elections, resigned from the party over his remarks suggesting that the comedian Lenny Henry should emigrate to a “black country.” A Ukip spokesman said: “Mr Henwood’s remarks about Lenny Henry caused enormous offence.”

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments