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.