Sunday, May 08, 2005

Crystal ball gazing

The corrected Corby vote puts UKIP's Ian Gillman at 478 votes, against a majority of 1,517, so it is clear that he did not affect the outcome of the election. The number of seats potentially affected by the UKIP/Veritas axis stands therefore at 27.

If this is the current situation, however, at the next general election the situation could be even worse.

There can of course be argument as to what extent the "UKIP effect" did change the course of the election but it is interesting to see that in some seats, there are some indications that it did have an impact.

In Bournemouth West, for instance, held by Sir John Butterfield (Con), his vote in 2001 was 14,417, dropping to 14,057 on 2005, while his majority was whittled away from 4,718 to 4,031. In the same period, the UKIP vote increased from 1,064 to 2,017, suggestive of a "UKIP effect".

But, on the basis that the UKIP vote increases the same amount in the next election, I have gone through the current results and worked out, provisionally, that some 15 extra Conservative seats could be lost to the "UKIP effect" in the next election.

These include Devon West, Eastbourne, Guildford, Totnes and the Wrekin, these would be in addition to the current 27 potentials, which would bring Conservative losses to 42.

All this, of course, is theoretical but there is good reason to believe that – all things being equal – UKIP could maintain its rate of growth or even improve its performance. For instance, with a prolonged EU referendum battle, it could improve its profile and attract greater support.

But, crucially, the most probable year for the next general election is 2009 which, this time, coincides with the Euro-elections, which might even be held on the same date. That would put “Europe” firmly on the agenda and could significantly benefit UKIP.

Clearly, the Conservatives can afford to ignore neither "Europe" nor UKIP at the next election, if they are to stand a chance of winning.

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