While the success of anti-Europe parties across the continent has been seen as a challenge to the established parties, it has also strengthened David Cameron’s renegotiation strategy. We’ve already heard remarks from Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and others on the need to reform the EU. This should convince Ukip voters that Cameron’s chances of getting a good deal for Britain are better than expected. Moreover, Cameron’s offer of a referendum in 2017 will become better appreciated as the general election draws closer. As an exit poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft showed, half of those who voted for Ukip last week have no intention of doing so in the general election. The Tories are hopeful that they can squeeze the Ukip vote down to 6 or 7 per cent in 2015. The message that a vote for Ukip is a vote for Ed Miliband will become more potent as the Labour leader’s stock falls. Charles Lewington is managing director of Hanover Communications and a former director of communications for the Conservative Party.
There are two key trends to watch here. First, Ukip support has traditionally fallen in general elections after a surge at the European level. In 2009, it rose in the European elections to an impressive 17 per cent; a year later at the general election it won 3 per cent, so there’s likely to be a significant drop. But that doesn’t mean Ukip will disappear. The other trend to watch is across Europe: anti-establishment parties have been remarkably resilient over the last two to three decades, despite regular pronouncements of their demise. Ukip should therefore not be ruled out, particularly given its strength in national polls and at recent local elections. In fact, even if Ukip’s vote share does drop in the short term, the core reasons for its recent success will remain. The party’s support is rooted in a sense of loss of control, unfulfilled political expectations, and a fundamental disconnect with the state. This will take more than a few policy shifts and a national election campaign to change. Marley Morris is a researcher and consultant at Counterpoint.