One political earthquake looks likely to be replaced by another

National polling over the last few days has caused some ripples among political anoraks.

As Political Betting has highlighted, Labour and Conservatives are now level pegging on 34% according to You Gov.  The last time that Labour was that low with the firm was in June 2010 only weeks after the party’s GE2010 defeat.   With four pollsters in two days showing the same broad picture the trend is becoming clearer Labour is down.

Miliband effect kicking in?

It seems no one has quite ‘got’ why this has happened yet. Most people are not political anoraks and therefore take little or no interest in politics until the week before they are going to vote.  Now there is a nationwide election due and we are less than a year from the General Election, so more people are inevitably taking a look at politics, whether they will vote and if so who they will vote for.

This is forcing people to look at Ed Miliband for the first time in a while and consider whether they seem him as this country’s next Prime Minister.  It seems they are concluding that he is not Prime Minster material and slowly turning away from Labour.

Where’s the UKIP bounce?

What is interesting is that there does not seem to be any rise in UKIP support, as the national polling for 2015 still shows the party rooted firmly in the 15% range.  UKIP has made much of its belief that more of its voters in the forthcoming European Elections will stick with the party in May 2015, and that a political earthquake will result.

What this assessment seems to ignore is that only around 30% of the electorate will bother to vote in the Euros, with UKIP mobilising just about all its support.  Most Labour and Tory voters and a good many Lib Dems will stay at home.  In May next year around 65-70% of the electorate will turn out for the personality politics vanity contest.  UKIP’s current vote will be significantly diluted.

Make no mistake, UKIP has the capacity to hurt the Tories next year.  But if  Labour support continues to fall back and the UKIP polling share doesn’t advance then the Tories may mitigate a lot of the damage.  UKIP’s political earthquake would then only have power comparable to a fart on a waterbed as the classic two party squeeze returns.

A lot can change between now and next May.  But as things stand it’s hard to see people’s perception of Miliband changing, particularly as the economy continues to improve.  Similarly it’s hard to see where UKIP will make any new breakthroughs, particularly as its immigration strategy is permanently alienating many more potential supporters than it is attracting.

One earthquake fails to materialise, but another might loom

Cameron could well be on course for a second term in Downing Street.  It’s not a prospect that fills me with joy, but as a result of that the UK would be on course for an in/out EU referendum in 2017.

This could be the best opportunity for the ‘out’ side to secure a Brexit from the EU. That would be an earthquake right at the top end of the political richter scale.

2017 is a date well before a point by which Cameron could ever hope to deliver on his renegotiation pledges.  There is no prospect of treaty change, which Cameron acknowledges some of his pledges require if they are to be delivered.  Four years after promising reforms he would have achieved nothing and would fight a referendum on a platform of promises that he can deliver, eventually.

People would see the reality that repatriation of meaningful powers to nation states just will not be allowed to happen.  Just like that crushing moment when a child discovers Father Christmas is not real, many pro-reformers will finally see their fantasy for what it is and admit at last the only options are in or out.

At least that is what will happen, if UKIP don’t secure enough votes in 2015 to deprive the Conservatives of some seats they currently hold in Parliament.  UKIP supporters face a paradox:

  • fight the Tories and do enough damage to prevent them winning the 2015 election, handing Downing Street to Miliband and thus losing any hope of bringing about a winnable in/out referendum.  Or,
  • don’t fight the Tories in the hope that they win the election and present EUsceptics with the golden opportunity they have craved for decades, to have and fight a winnable referendum and take Britain out of the EU

Welcome to the often soul destroying world of realpolitik.  After more than 20 years of campaigning to get the UK out of the EU, UKIP may find itself in a position where putting party first actually deprives voters of the chance to escape from the control of Brussels.

11 Responses to “One political earthquake looks likely to be replaced by another”


  1. 1 tallbloke 14/05/2014 at 12:25 pm

    “2017 is a date well before a point by which Cameron could ever hope to deliver on his renegotiation pledges.”

    Which is why Dave would renege on his cast iron guarantee. Again. Anyway, the loopy lirds scuppered the last referendum bill, so why do you have any faith in tory promises?

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 14/05/2014 at 1:08 pm

    Richard puts it rather well…

    We can rely on this not because we can trust Mr Cameron or the Conservatives but because that is the political reality. Not to honour that promise would probably wipe out the Conservative Party, not just for a parliamentary term, but for a generation.

  3. 3 Pogle's Woodsman 14/05/2014 at 3:22 pm

    Leaving any tribalism or cynicism outside for now, the most likely result of an EU ‘out’ vote will be a more or less immediate General Election.

    As I say, leaving any trust issues aside, even if Cameron sincerely intended to invoke legislative articles honouring a withdrawal, the nature of the UK Parliament is still pro-EU. Most certainly a fairly rock solid majority in the Labour Party in Westminster seats, and a significant part of the Conservative parliamentary party.

    To push through those hypothetical legislative articles he will of course need a majority, and I would suggest that in the event of an ‘out’ vote, a good sixty Conservative MPs would resign the whip and happily leave Cameron denuded of a majority. So with regard to the notion that the Conservative Party might be wiped out, the past couple of decades has proven that there is an irrevocable split in the Conservatives over this one – equally profound as the traditional\modernist split in Labour. Given the choice between refusing the EU and wrecking their party, the Conservatives will invariably choose the latter. It’s in their nature.

    Solution have I none. It’s just an observation based on knowledge of the leanings of the majority of MPs, the fairly institutional disdain for referendums which give the ‘wrong’ result and the culture of contempt that many senior Conservative, Labour and LibDem Parliamentarians hold for the electorate. Notionally that in mechanical terms I accept that Cameron may be able to get his (detail-absent) referendum through on the date he has promised. I don’t believe – even if he was sincere about it – that he would be able to deliver actual withdrawal.

    I’m not trying to throw a petulant spanner in the works, nor look the proverbial gift-horse in the gob, just highlighting a tiny part of the hazardous route ahead.

  4. 4 Bellevue 14/05/2014 at 5:05 pm

    So, AM…… where does your refusal to vote come into this equation?
    (I am not being snide, believe me. I would really like to know……)

  5. 5 Autonomous Mind 14/05/2014 at 7:05 pm

    Who said I am voting? This is a commentary piece.

  6. 6 Sackerson 15/05/2014 at 7:23 am

    UKIP will gaijn no Praliamentary seats other than the one they already have in the NI Assembly, because their vote is widespread. Is it possible that that they might weaken the LibDems far more than the Cons? If you look at the (GE 2010) 50 safest seats in the country (all Labour), in 27 of them the runner-up was UKIP; I wonder how to interpret that. Frustrated Tory voters, or people who couldn’t quite bring themselves to vote Labour?? Farge’s nationalism and commments on the way globalisation and economic immigration are cementing the underclass in theor unemployment, might appeal to Left as much as Right.

  7. 7 scottishcalvin 15/05/2014 at 3:08 pm

    I find it increasingly ludicrous that in the run up to the Scottish referendum, no analogy has been made. Any argument against an EU vote (it’s not the right time etc…) could have been made about Scotland working out what to do with the pound/oil and indeed, the whole ‘No’ vote is based on framing it as an EU vote (You’d have to leave).

    As such, anyone who agreed to the Scottish referendum must, by definition, think it would be fine to hold an EU vote this year as well.

    As an aside, I’m a lifelong nationalist that will probably vote No come September because I dislike rules being dictated by Brussels more than I do from London. It’s like Texas wanting to secede and become part of a union with Mexico and Bolivia. I’d love to know how the threat of including an EU vote on the ballot was used by Salmond to force Dave’s hand on getting the age reduced to 16.

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  9. 9 CastIron 18/05/2014 at 9:10 pm

    Cameron set out his seven major changes (pledges?) in his piece in the Telegraph on 15 March 2014.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/10700644/David-Cameron-the-EU-is-not-working-and-we-will-change-it.html

    Save for excluding the principle of “ever closer union”, I think the other six could be met to a sufficient degree because much depends on the interpretation of his words. For example, preventing “vast” migrations, which incidentally he only appears to want applied to new EU members. Who decides what is “vast” and over what time period? E.g. 10,000, 100,000, 250,000 per year? He does not want “unnecessary interference” in the police and criminal justice sphere. Who determines what satisfies “unnecessary”?

  10. 10 pubcurmudgeon 21/05/2014 at 6:36 pm

    Umm, if “UKIP don’t secure enough votes in 2015 to deprive the Conservatives of some seats they currently hold in Parliament” how can they then “fight the Tories and do enough damage to prevent them winning the 2015 election, handing Downing Street to Miliband”?

  11. 11 Autonomous Mind 21/05/2014 at 7:54 pm

    You’re mixing objectives with outcomes.


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