The Telegraph is trying to divert attention away from the disastrous (for the Tories) Euro Elections, so they posted an article looking at what they consider to be the 2015 General Election hotspots, based on the “traditional” kinds of battle from the past between Labour and Conservative, plus the Liberal Democrats in their stronghold areas. The article made my blood boil as they dismissed what they saw as the only hope of UKIP getting any seats by claiming that only if Nigel stood in Thanet South would UJIP have a chance of one seat, dismissing even his chances with the statistic of a 44% swing to UKIP being required.  In fact, quite a few of the seats that the Telegraph saw as “legacy party” marginals are also strong UKIP hopefuls, for that very reason – the way UKIP takes votes from all parties.

They have made the mistake of relying on conventional wisdom, on trying to project forwards from the past, and of ignoring new evidence, the new factors that have emerged since the last election. What is that new evidence?

  • The collapse of Liberal Democrat support after they went into coalition with the Tories. A lot of their voters would have been “not-Tory not-Labour” protest voters who realised that with the Liberal Democrats in power you got the same old thing.
  • The rise of UKIP representation at local level, initially across the Shires with the County Elections last year, enabling the party to build up local loyal support, based on delivering results in those areas. The 2014 local elections should cement that effect.
  • The strong push of UKIP’s anti mass immigration message, which is appealing to the “left-behind” voters, those who are most affected when immigrants come into the same job pool, and who have not benefitted the same way the better-educated middle-class voters have.   This has enabled UKIP to make strong inroads in the north, being seen as the alternative to Labour, and in urban areas.
  • There is a swathe of voters who find both Labour and Conservative distasteful. They may have voted for Margaret Thatcher in years gone by, or Tony Blair initially, but have seen how these parties have fused into much same “social democrat” position with little concern for what “ordinary people” want. However, some are returning to voting – for UKIP.

There is little doubt that UKIP will do well in the European elections, if not win them. This will rub off onto local elections, and with the greatest number of seats contested, there is hope for even more UKIP Councillors being elected than last May. However, the naysayers claim that come a General Election all this support will slip away, people voting traditionally – my feeling is that the new factors outlined above, plus the 2013 and 2014 successes will enable UKIP to achieve far greater things in 2015. The challenges between this and next May will therefore be:

  • Building on the base of UKIP elected county/unitary and district/borough/city councillors, proving UKIP “delivers” and gaining local loyalty.
  • With UKIP MEPs and ongoing campaigns through to May 2015, gaining voter loyalty at a national level. UKIP’s ongoing campaigns must start moving the EU and Immigration messages onto employment and the economy, and showing voters that the party has serious policies with respect of Tax, Health, Education and Law/Order.
  • Specific campaigns such as anti-HS2, anti-toll roads, anti-windfarm, anti-green-belt building that may affect more than one constituency.

So, given all that, where do I think the UKIP hotspots will be? In considering this, I have drawn on several sources:

  • My own predictions workbook, which models the sources of UKIP voters and differing levels of swing to UKIP.  However, this works on 2009 Euro (for the regional spread of UKIP support) and 2010 GE data, together with the known data on the LD vote collapse.
  • The County Council results in May 2013.
  • The “Revolt on the Right” book by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, which is a dispassionate look at where UKIP votes come from, and predicts UKIP target seats. (see Amazon if you wish to buy). This attempts to predict seats from a detailed analysis of demographics against Continuous Monitoring Survey data and the attitudes of the people studied by that survey – its conclusions are that the more deprived parts of the country will have a greater tendency to vote UKIP on the basis of the immigration argument and dissatisfaction with the political class, than more middle-class areas.

I am actually being premature in coming up with a prediction of 2015 UKIP hotspots – the Euro elections in 2 weeks’ time will give us a better appreciation of the regional distribution of UKIP votes today, 5 years on, and the local elections may highlight new constituencies where adding up the local votes would show a Westminster win.

Not surprisingly, the seats that Ford/Goodwin tip for best chances of UKIP success, are not on the Telegraph’s radar. Ford and Goodwin pick out seats like Plymouth Moor View, Walsall North, Great Yarmouth and Eastleigh, all of which my analyses agree with, plus a lot of northern urban areas containing a lot of “left-behinds.”

Therefore, I will compare the Telegraph “hotspot” predictions against the other 2 sources above. (Note: When it comes to aggregating council votes within a constituency, where an electoral division is split across a constituency boundary, I have used ‘wet finger’ estimates, from the visible housing density on an OS map, of the percentage of votes within the constituency)

Seat Held Telegraph “My ranked prediction” (on 2009/10 data) 2013 Council Elections (Top 3) See Note
Camborne & Redruth (SW) Con 0.16% for LD gain #5 UKIP 4681, Con 3966, Lab 3333 1
Southampton Itchen Lab 0.2% for Con gain #118 No City election
Basingstoke Con 25% for LD gain #197 Con 6960, Lab 5968, UKIP 5856 2
Brighton Pavilion Grn 1.2% for Lab gain #238 No City election
Thanet South Con 44% for UKIP gain #123 UKIP 15057, Lab 11210, Con 10801 3
3 London seats The Telegraph has 3 N/NW London seats, which, on current showing, are no hopers for UKIP. However 2014’s elections may change that.
Norwich North Con 4.6% for Lab gain #46 Lab 6750, Con 6075, UKIP 4917 4
Warwickshire North Con 0.1% for Labour gain (easy on 2013 result) #88 Lab 10660, Con 6454, UKIP 4413
Solihull LD 0.2% for Con gain (possble) #96 No MD election
Dudley North Lab 1.7% for Con gain #7 No MD election 5
Wolverhampton South West Con 0.9% for Con gain #83 No MD election 5
Cannock Chase Con 3.5% for Lab gain #12 Lab 7858, Con 7197, UKIP 5993 6
Wirral West Con 3.1% for Lab gain (possible) #348 No local election
Rossendale and Darwen Con 4.8% for Lab gain #228 Lab 6140, Con 5536, UKIP 3157 7
4 Yorkshire & NE seats The Telegraph has 4 northern seats, which, on current showing, are no hopers for UKIP. However 2014’s elections may change that.

Notes:

1 – Camborne & Redruth – No hope of the Lib Dems gaining it, their vote collapsed. In the county elections a lot of votes went to Independents and Mebyon Kernow (Cornish Independence) but they do not figure in a GE. A strong chance for UKIP, given the party “win” in 2013.

2 – Basingstoke – No hope for Lib Dems again. Locals are seething about Maria Miller’s recent scandal and her lack of appearance in the constituency – floats in for 5 minute grip and grins and disappears. UKIP are mounting a strong 2014 campaign in the town led by Alan Stone, and in 2015 the anti-Miller sentiment could project Alan into Westminster.

3 – Thanet South – Very strong UKIP support locally in 2013, and such voters should stick with UKIP nationally. If Nigel stands, almost a “dead cert”, even with the standing start from 2010.

4 – Norwich North – This will very much be a three-cornered fight, Labour strong in the inner City part of the constituency, Tories strong on the city fringe, and UKIP doing well across the board, but no County seats in 2013.

5 – Dudley North and Wolverhampton South West – Depending on the outcome of the 2014 local elections, UKIP could make both of these a 3 cornered fight, given closeness of Tory & Labour votes in 2010 (Both within 700 votes)

6 – Cannock Chase – Some hard work required, but if the “national mood” swings more UKIP’s way, the local branch have a strong voter base to build on, if not elected councillors.

7 – Rossendale and Darwen – The 2013 results are only for the Rossendale part of the constituency, Darwen in a Unitary, and is more likely to be more Labour, so it looks like a good chance for Labour. UKIP have to work very hard to get a look in here.

The Telegraph are right with respect to some of their hotspots still being Lab-Con battlegrounds, but where local UKIP branches have worked hard and gained local votes and seats (the 8 drawn out in the notes above), the Telegraph has utterly missed the target with its blinkered thinking.

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