Ukip activists argue that their party’s growth is just as much of a threat to Labour as it is to the Conservatives. “We are now parking our tanks on the Labour Party’s lawn,” leader Nigel Farage bellowed during his conference speech at the end of last week.
A lot of polling data suggests otherwise. Psephologist Mike Smithson noted yesterday that a ComRes poll showed 43 per cent of Ukip’s vote coming from people who voted Tory in 2010. Just 10 per cent comes from 2010 Labour voters – an even lower proportion than 2010 Lib Dems who may switch to Ukip.
And in terms of high profile defections, it is certainly the Tories rather than Labour who are suffering.
Yet there is a significant overlap between the approaches that Labour and Ukip are taking into the general election. Both parties increasingly appeal to disaffected largely-working-class Brits who feel that their quality of life has deteriorated in recent years. Many such voters feel this has been avoidable, and many blame immigration and big business.
New polling by Lord Ashcroft has revealed that one of the main differences between voters who are sticking with the Tories and those who are leaving is that the former group are far more likely to be aware of – and satisfied with – the UK’s economic growth and sharp drops in unemployment. By contrast, “Ukip supporters are the most likely of all to think that any recovery will pass them by,” Ashcroft wrote yesterday.
The Conservatives are fighting a battle on two fronts, yet both depend on voters’ perceptions of the recovery.