It has been a long held assumption that Ukip is nothing more than a right-wing breakaway from the Conservative Party; that once the Tories come to their senses the Ukip voter will pack their bags and return to the Tory fold. In fact it is often thought that the Ukip voter must necessarily be a retired half Colonel living on the edge of Salisbury Plain, fulminating about the world, desperate for the reintroduction of birching and never happier than after the first pink gin of the day.
There has been a very strong attempt by various polling companies, and in particular Lord Ashcroft, to try to reinforce this idea that the Ukip vote is a Tory vote. But here’s the thing: 70 per cent of Ukip voters in target seats we polled did not vote Conservative in 2010. So why would the Conservative Party be happy to believe that they only need to write an article on immigration in a newspaper every now and again, make some tough sounding noises about repatriating powers from the EU and they’ll be back to the height of their popularity? Is ignorance really bliss, even in politics?
Ukip are often asked why we would want to let Labour in rather than a Tory MP or councillor. But what we can see from the polling we have undertaken is that in many Northern areas, it is Ukip who is the only real rival to Labour. But it’s been made even clearer this weekend that facts and figures are not going to get in the way of a long and firmly-held belief that Ukip are the baddies, the vote splitters; the People’s Front of Judea. The attack on former Tory candidate Victoria Ayling demonstrates this.
Councillor Ayling stood as the Conservative candidate in Great Grimsby in 2010 where she polled 31 per cent of the vote, only 700 off winning against Austin Mitchell. But with the popular Mitchell standing down and our polling showing that we have leapfrogged the Tories into second place behind Labour, it must be a bitter pill to swallow at Tory HQ. What better reaction than to attack our candidate, despite the fact she was nearly an MP for them.
It is not just the morals of politicians and their advisers that are questionable, and which I think are significant in turning voters away from politics altogether. It’s also the polling techniques used which have a psychological effect on voters in the run up to elections when there is much talk of “wasted votes” or “letting the other side in”.
For example the pollsters YouGov are thought to be the best in the business. Yet they do not even prompt Ukip when asking voters how they intend to vote in a 2015 General Election. And when the reweighting of votes is done, it is done on the basis of how people voted in 2010, when Ukip only scored three per cent. In fact Populus have now reached the farcical levels of reweighting and rejigging their polls to mark Ukip down to just 7 per cent, which happened just before our amazing results in May.
Fortunately for me, Ukip donor Alan Bown has employed the services of Survation, a relatively new, dynamic polling company. These statistics are really highlighted by the recent by-elections fought in the North of England. Ukip scored 25.5 per cent of the vote in South Shields and I genuinely do not think many Tory supporters are living in that constituency.
We are picking up our vote from across the board. These figures are further reinforced by looking at the Tory marginal of Thanet South – a seat from which the sitting MP Laura Sandys has just stood down. That poll shows that if a General Election was held in Thanet South tomorrow, 35 per cent would vote Labour, 30 per cent would vote Ukip and 28 per cent would vote Conservative.
What would happen I wonder if Ukip didn’t field a candidate in Thanet South? Surely then the orthodoxy would say the Conservatives would win? Yet when asked, 48 per cent of Ukip voters in Thanet South said if there was not a Ukip candidate they would not vote for anybody, 20 per cent said they would vote Conservative and 19 per cent said they would vote Labour. So the lesson here is that even without Ukip in the race, the Conservatives are still going to lose Thanet South. And far from a vote for Ukip being a vote for Miliband – actually the truth in Thanet South is that the only way to stop Miliband winning a seat is if you vote Ukip because the Tories now are effectively splitting our vote.
But perhaps the achievement of which I am proudest of, is that we as a political party are now beginning to re-engage many that have turned off from politics completely. A now steady, clear and consistent 14 per cent of the Ukip vote is now coming from people who did not vote at all in the last General Election. Some are new voters, but most are people who have been so turned off by politics that in many cases they haven’t actually voted for 20 years.
These are the voters which the old parties seem to have no interest in re-engaging. Presumably they see them as “lost causes” or people who simply can’t get their head around complex policies. In my opinion, it’s because they can see straight through the false smiles and cheap promises of career politicans – and if Ukip can get those people once again involved in the political process then that is something we can be proud of.