Douglas Carswell wrote a piece on his website yesterday about how UKIP could seriously challenge Labour in the north, taking seats off them sooner than some might expect. He described his party breaking up a “one party state” and claims that UKIP do not need to move to the left in order to achieve this; that in fact, the whole draw of UKIP in the north, theoretically at least, should be that they are a right of centre party northerners can vote for because they are not the Tories.
A lot of what Carswell had to say on the matter I agreed with. Much like Scotland, I always find the idea that somehow northerners are inherently left wing regardless of any other factor to be bollocks. Like Scotland, the north of England just happens to have people with a cultural revulsion towards the Conservative Party in large numbers. Also, if you look at how UKIP electorally performed in the north of England in the general election, it does speak of a party that, if it can build on this performance for next time and I agree that’s a very big if, they could take a fair chunk of seats off of Labour. Again, in theory anyhow.
But while I agree with many of the things Carswell said, I disagree with the central premise. I do not think UKIP will take a bunch of Labour held seats next time out for several reasons. One is UKIP itself. Carswell is speaking from the position that sanity prevails in his party and I’m not sure that’s the territory they’re sailing into. Already, people like Douglas can see that Farage will be a disaster for the Get Out campaign and is trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. The tensions that will take place within UKIP will be huge during the next couple of years, particularly if we all vote to stay in the EU.
Also, while I’ve written at length about how Andy Burnham’s impeding leadership of the Labour Party is destined for disaster, it would have to go much worse than even my darkest prognosis for Labour to lose their northern seats in any significant numbers. This is the one remaining core Labour constituency that Burnham should have no problem with. London might cause him some headaches, and getting Scotland back would be a trial for any Labour leader, but the north should be unbotchable even for Burnham.
Still, the Carswell article has lingered in my mind for a reason. Jonathan Freedland wrote a great piece a few days ago about the purple army in which he said that the future of UKIP post-EU referendum is almost certainly as a sort of English National Party. If they managed to make that work, and particularly if they were able to harness the bitterness of an “EU stitch up“ along with growing resentment towards Scotland getting a better and better deal from the Tory government, I suppose you never know.
Edward Wynn says
Interesting but a partial analysis. I think you ignore one factor which will become important – what the Tory Gov actually succeeds in doing in the North. Lets assume the economy overall continues to improve and there are no ‘shocks’. Then the Northern Powerhouse approach which they are pursuing will to some extent may have begun to impact. Lets also assume that an in-out referendum decides IN. Additionally lets assume the perception, if not the reality, of immigration is that it is in some way controlled. In those circumstances the message of the UKIP party will be difficult to frame independently of the Tories. I think in those circumstances with the re-districting Labour is looking at an erosion of seats. Not many but enough to strangle recovery chances. If Burnham or whoever takes those seats for granted it would be a mistake.