In the European Elections, UKIP gained 27% of the vote share on a 36% turnout. This meant UKIP topped the vote share as well as having the largest number of MEPs in the EU Parliament compared to all the other parties. This was Nigel Farage’s promised “earthquake”.
All the parties are now fretting at the threat UKIP poses to all of them. Ed Miliband has decided to tell the audiences of Thurrock that immigration is a legitimate concern. There is much talk that UKIP are not about to be a party that will see a big decline in its vote between now and 2015.
Yet the European elections should be a sign of optimism for the mainstream parties. For UKIP to make big strides in terms of taking seats from the likes of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat, John Rentoul stipulates they need about 30% of the vote.
This is a figure very close to what UKIP’s actual vote share was. This though was a share based on a low turnout. How will UKIP be able to keep its a share of the vote when the turnout at the next general election will be almost twice as large?
It is a harder getting a high share of the vote on a higher turnout, especially when the party is so polarising to large sections of the electorate.
The polls show though that 58% of UKIP voters at the European elections intended to stay UKIP voters at the General Election. This would translate to 15% share of the vote. A very similar figure to what the UK Polling Report average for UKIP is.
Roughly, UKIP only have about half of the support necessary to make large in roads in terms of taking seats.
This share of the vote is enough to upset the calculations of the strategists within the political parties. Shock results may very well end up being on the cards.
But it is not a big enough share that the mainstream parties should try pandering to UKIP voters. This strategy is flawed as none of the parties will be able to compete with UKIP on issues such as Europe and immigration. Pandering to UKIP will raise their momentum even further.
Instead, the parties need to refocus their efforts on finding an identity that will alleviate the concerns and fears of ordinary voters. The UKIP vote is a clear rejection to what the mainstream parties stand for. Their is a vacuum in British politics at the moment. It is up to the party leaders to find the vision, principles, messages and values that will fill up that vacuum. It is time for the leaders to actually lead with boldness rather than lead out of fear.