Could UKIP become the third party in British politics as Nigel Farage recently professed?

YES
Andrew Hawkins

It’s the morning after the 2014 European elections and UKIP has won the most votes. This follows a string of by-election successes, regularly beating the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives into third place. UKIP averages 10 per cent in the polls, often ahead of the Lib Dems. Nigel Farage now demands to be in the 2015 general election leader debates because if Nick Clegg is there, he should be too. The 2015 election results in another coalition, with the Lib Dems as the smaller partner. Is this far-fetched? UKIP are within range of 10 per cent in the polls. In five of the 12 by-elections since 2010 they have finished second or third, and they came second in the 2009 European elections. The momentum is theirs, whereas parties in government lose support over time. Perhaps the Lib Dems will prove that being in government and mopping up third-party support are mutually exclusive in the long run.

Andrew Hawkins is head of ComRes.

NO
Mike Smithson

The challenge facing UKIP is that, even if they were to repeat their Rotherham vote share in every constituency across the country, they would still get no MPs at a general election. The first-past-the-post voting system is very unfriendly to parties that are evenly spread across the country. They would need to build up support and a local councillor base in selected areas, and use that as a springboard to win in a seat in a general election. That requires grunt work – knocking on doors, and delivering on the ground – experience that they appear to lack. A good model to follow is the Green party victory in Brighton Pavilion at the last election. Given the background to Rotherham and the foster home row, they should have done better. This was their best chance of an MP yet, but they came out with less than half the votes of Labour.

Mike Smithson is head of Political Betting.