Sunday, 17 January 2010

The populist right

Parties of the populist right may not win any seats in the general election, but the votes they take could be quite crucial in marginal seats where they could exceed the margin of victory for either party. Although I don't have any data to hand on this, my impression has been that UKIP has tended to appeal to broadly middle class voters who might otherwise vote Conservative.

UKIP have also been very much focused on the issue of Britain's relationship with the EU which has worked well for them in European elections, but the narrowness of their focus has been a handicap in general elections (where voters, up to now at any rate, have been inclined to revert to the main parties). They are now seeking to broaden their appeal to working class voters: UKIP

The Conservatives might have grounds for concern about this, although it is noticeable that they are taking a stronger line on immigration and a report in the Sunday Times yesterday suggested that this might be helping them in key seats. The overall 9 per cent lead for them in the YouGov poll is not as large as they need to be really confident of a solid overall majority, even if they are doing better in marginal seats.

Although it is difficult to generalise, the BNP vote has often come from those who would otherwise vote Labour or might not vote at all. A report in The Times in their interesting 'broken Britain' series in which writers re-visit their old home times tried to get beyond the usual clich├ęs about racism as the single explanation to explore what was happening in Burnley, a town where the BNP has done relatively well. You can read the article here: Burnley

For those who do not know Burnley, it is important to emphasise that this former textile town suffers from serious economic and social deprivation. I have seen scenes of urban devastation there that are more characteristic of the United States. One couple referred to in the article had low paid jobs and were struggling to pay a mortgage on a house that was declining in value. These are the very 'working poor' that Labour claimed it would help.

Those interviewed were inclined to blame Mrs Thatcher and Labour deserting the working class for the plight of Burnley. One thing that wasn't mentioned was 'globalisation', but however much people dispute the concept, it is a reality which has hit those with limited skills in towns like Burnley.

To end on a positive note, a relatively small and deprived town has produced a football club which looks like it might survive in the Premiership.


Rob said...

I recognise that UKIP has attracted many Euroskeptic Conservatives. But I'm not so sure that UKIP always appeals solely to people on the right as BNP supporters often think about voting UKIP.

In my experience what type of people vote UKIP depends on the area (this dictates the local culture, and which parties field candidates)and the timing. For instance after the expenses fiasco many people were turned off voting for the main parties but still didn't want to cast in their vote with BNP. Hence UKIP became quite attractive.

What's more UKIP's message is all in its name, as you mention. There is a view that you don't need to have an education or even follow the news to know what they stand for. Therefore UKIP has an appeal to less educated people that are anti-EU but want to cast a vote without researching what everyone stands for. Due to the finances needed for education most lowly educated people come from the lower class. There has also been a rather tenuous relation between the BNP and UKIP, with reports of attempts at an alliance before the EU elections in 2009, because of their close ideological links.

Rob (

Wyn Grant said...

Interesting comment and I would pretty much agree with it. There is an article by Rallings and Thrasher in the latest British politics on the vote for minor parties in local and EP elections. I have not had time to read it fully yet, but they do argue that its perceived single focus has been a handicap for UKIP.