One of the solutions Tory MPs are mulling over now the boundary reforms are dead in the water is some sort of partnership with UKIP to boost the party’s chances in 2015. As many as 60 per cent of Conservative activists are reported to favour such a pact. But David Cameron has yet to show any sign that he’s warming towards the party he once described as consisting of ‘loonies, fruitcakes and racists’.
If he is not careful, Cameron’s hand may be played for him. The Eurozone crisis may finally come to a head, which could lead to a soar in UKIP’s popularity. The Prime Minister might then have to broker a deal to avoid electoral meltdown. If he refuses then, Nigel Jones thinks another Tory leader might be more willing. The party rank-and-file certainly find such a partnership more appealing than remaining in tandem with the Lib Dems.
Farage isn’t just relying on the Eurocrisis, though. Instead of trying to win over ‘One Show man and Holby City women,’ UKIP is now out to poach neglected working class voters. Farage gave an interview to the Newcastle Journal recently, where he made an appeal to ‘patriotic Old Labour…working people, working families’. This means voters who have been ‘seriously impacted by the downturn in the economy’ and ‘hurt by uncontrolled mass immigration’.
But can a party that conventional wisdom says appeals to disillusioned Conservative voters appeal to working class northerners who have a visceral dislike of all things Tory? The polling suggests it’s not implausible that UKIP can break through to Labour voters. YouGov found that 31 per cent of voters said they would consider voting UKIP, which breaks down to 41 per cent of Tory voters, 20 per cent for Labour and 17 per cent of Liberal Democrats. Five per cent more of C2DE (socioeconomic group) voters would consider UKIP than ABC1s, suggesting that UKIP’s appeal is pushing beyond angry Eurosceptics in the home counties. Ed Miliband is clearly mindful of this: his speech on Britishness earlier this summer showed a desire to reconnect with voters on issues that UKIP is very vocal about.
The numbers are even more heartening for Farage in the north, the most desolate area for Conservative support. In a geographical breakdown, 32 per cent of folks in the north said they would vote for UKIP — the same as the south of England and higher than London and Scotland.
UKIP can aim to expose two of Cameron’s weaknesses – immigration and the European Union – which he still struggles to tackle head on. The test of Farage’s strategy will be the European elections in 2014.