As I assumed, UKIP have said they are going to fight all the seats at the General Election. That means there is no deal to be done between the Conservatives and UKIP. They have no MPs to help us in the current Commons, and they want all Conservative MPs thrown out of Parliament. That includes those who have sustained the battle against federal Treaties, in favour of a referendum and in favour of EU exit.
What is more surprising is Mr Farage, generally thought to be their best candidate, still will not confirm he is fighting the next General Election himself, and will not tell us where he would want to be a candidate if he does. The three main parties with MPs in the Commons all think that you need to choose candidates early to have the best chance of success, particularly if you are the challenger starting well behind in the polls.
I myself was selected with two years to run to the next General Election. Those two years were invaluable to be able to get know the constituency, its people and problems, to move in and become part of the community. As a candidate you have no late nights at Westminster to worry about and more free time to get out and about. Where Conservative or Labour have won marginals, it normally follows a long period of hard work in the constituency by the candidate.
With UKIP on 10% in the polls the question of electing MPs is academic. If the vote remains that low and is widely spread there will be no UKIP MPs in 2015, any more than there were in 2010. The UKIP strategy is to hope that the European election acts as a springboard for them. These are not my predictions, but come from the UKIP website itself. They host a long article on the polling – though they say beneath it is not endorsed by UKIP! Nonetheless the article is clearly written by a UKIP supporter and given pride of place on the official website of the party.
The article says that at 16% of the vote – the highwater mark of polls before the recent decline in support – UKIP does most damage to the Conservatives. From 16-25% UKIP damages Labour more. The site says “UKIP only wins 2 seats at 25% of the vote”, the level it has reached in a recent by election. The site goes on to say “Is it too outlandish to think that UKIP could hold the balance of power? Probably….” So UKIP themselves do not think they can win very much, or indeed anything at all at Westminster.
Certainly last time they polled much better in the European elections, and did secure 13 MEPs, coming second to the Conservatives with 16.5% of the vote. However, their vote subsided by 2010 in the General Election to 3%. The present scarce polls on the European elections show again that they may poll better in those than their general poll rating, which stays well below the level to win a seat. So for the strategy of take off to work, there needs to be some new factor in 2014-15 that did not apply in 2009-10.
Maybe that explains why the Leader will not commit himself to a Westminster seat. Maybe he does not think he can find one where he can win. Meanwhile, of the 13 MEPs who were elected for UKIP in 2009, only 9 are still UKIP MEPs. Four have left to join other parties or have left for other reasons. It’s a high attrition rate, implying problems within the high command. It would be interesting to hear from UKIP supporters why their MEPs have found it so difficult to stick with them, and what they think of UKIP’s polling analysis. What also do they think of the “We demand a referendum party”, with support from former UKIP people? What did they think of yesterday’s conference, condemned by Mr Farage as a failure?