Friday, 3 May 2013

The UK lurches to the Right

The dust is settling after a traumatic and interesting set of local elections in the UK.  The results are still being gathered up by there is only one story- the rise of UKIP, who achieved 26%+ of the popular vote in the areas where they had candidates.  At the last general election in 2010 UKIP garnered only 3.1% so they have had a meteoric rise.  It still puzzles me that such a sizable proportion of the voting population would vote for a single issue party, a party of protest?  An opinion poll published on the same day as local election results reinforces the picture that UKIP have moved from being also ran's in the domestic political scene (they have been important for a while in Euro elections) to being the third party, displacing the Liberals.

With only 2 years to go before we have the national hustings for Westminster there are problems for all the political leaders:

Nick Clegg the LibDem leader must be the most worried of all the party leaders.   His parties standing in the polls has be stuck at 10% or less since 2011.  He will now have to hunker down and fight a battle in the seats they already hold, with few financial resources he will have to focus on seat that he won in 2010.

Ed Miliband the Labour leader looks like he will caught like David Cameron was in 2010, being the largest party but without an overall majority.  He should expect the gap between Labour and Tory to narrow over the next few months and if there is any improvement in the economy and the weather he might be neck and neck with Cameron by 2015 comes around.  Most worryingly he must be aware that new KIDs on the block (UKIP) represent a swing to the right amongst ordinary working class voters.

Nigel Farage the UKIP leader has should good judgement and some real political savvy but he has now jumped into the spotlight and my sense is that this might melt him and his party,  As they come under closer and closer scrutiny the wheels may come off.  To have any impact at the general election he needs to do a deal with Cameron, my bet is that he will targets the north of England where the Tory brand is well and truly broken.

David Cameron had the most to lose at this election and he was certainly the main loser. The Tory vote in the North of England is in terminal decline and of-course in Scotland Tories dare not show their face.  The issues of Europe and immigration are now centre stage, and unless Cameron can find a way through these two minefields with his coalition partners he will be back in opposition in 2015.

Strangely and uniquely the UKs political response to long term austerity has been a shift to the right, whereas in most of Europe the shift has been the other way. Only 40% voted Tory or UKIP in the 2010 general election compared to 46% of voters now declaring an intention to vote Tory or UKIP.  This shift to the right is creating a more segmented and crowded space to the right of the LibDems, creating opportunities for David Cameron as well as the obvious threat.  The real question is whether the UK is morphing into a state similar to the US situation where the agenda of the right is driven by non -economic issues which make it hard to assemble a coherent coalition - have gay marriage and Europe become our equivalent to gun control and sequestration?  

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