Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Green Peril

Are the UKIP on the march? Not really. 1% of the electorate (even that number may have been rounded up) and some absolutely tiny numbers in recent electoral tests suggests the party has had its moment. The party may experience a revival with the next set of European elections. However, it clearly has utterly failed so far to convince the electorate it is anything but a single-issue, fringe party.

Now, that a party only appeals to 1% of the electorate doesn't mean that it is electorally unimportant. If those votes are in the right places they could cost a mainstream party seats.

I've been doing some activist work for the Conservatives in the run up to the May 3rd elections in the heart of right-wing Middle England. If the UKIP were to succeed I would expect it to start here. While the blogosphere assumes that the greatest threat to the Conservatives is the UKIP everyone I speak to seems far more worried by the Greens of all people. The UKIP generally has no organisation and its support has been drifting in the last few years. The BNP's presence is in rough areas where the Tories have little to lose. The Greens are increasingly active and are far more likely to pick up a protest vote.

You can see this difference in the breakdown of the Communicate poll on ConservativeHome yesterday. Leaving aside the Celtic nationalist parties the largest 'Others' are the UKIP on 1%, the BNP on 2% and the Greens on 3%. Of course, all of these parties pale in comparison with even the Lib Dems on 22% who are still the recipient of most protest votes. If Cameron worries about voters who dislike Labour drifting to other parties this suggests he should continue his efforts to woo the rather confused right-wing Lib Dems, strengthen his environmentalism and then promise hard action on immigration. Attempting to appease the UKIP follows a weak fourth.

None of this has any bearing, of course, on the question of whether taking a tougher line on Europe is the right thing to do. I don't think more misjudged environmentalism would be a good idea despite the fact that it might gain us important votes from Lib Dems and Greens. However, it does mean that those who couch their case for a tougher Conservative line on Europe in terms of electoral pragmatism are rather misguided.


James Higham said...

...I get the feeling that we underestimate the pre-war era. Perhaps I'm extrapolating too much from my own experience...

This is very much my field of interest, Matthew, up to and including the first world war.

On the other side of the pond, the Wilson/House era is fascinating. You like this era too?

Matthew Sinclair said...

I think you meant to comment on the post about the Victorians. I don't know much about Wilson/House I'm afraid.