Monday, May 24, 2004
Breaking News

Joan Collins has joined UKIP and talks sense.

She wrote: “I really believe that we would be better going it alone rather than cede our powers to those faceless, overpaid Brussels bureaucrats who care nothing for the individuality of sovereign states.

“I’m proud of being English and those who say we are such a tiny country that we can’t survive outside the EU are wrong.”

The United Kingdom Independence Party (whose founders included Alan Sked, Paul Coulam and Helen Szamuely) has supposedly emjoyed a late surge in the polls. According to Michael white in the Grauniad, this has two foundations:

In the drive by all smaller parties to eat into the support of the big three, UKIP - with £2m to spend on the campaign - is probably the best funded. It has a simple message too: Britain should leave the EU.

The YouGov Poll on which the figures are based, was taken amongst those 'likely to vote', providing a firmer indication of voting intentions.

The poll gave the opposition Conservatives 31 points, Tony Blair's governing Labour Party 23 points, the UKIP 18 points and the Lib Dems 15 points. The results were the highest ever for the UKIP and suggest a hardening of anti-EU opinion.

However, in the normal polling, UKIP trailed the Liberal Democrats 15% to 18%. This interesting result has been described as a "hardening of anti-EU opinion" although this is not yet borne out in other polling. The answer is that we do not know why there is a surge in UKIP's support: whether it is a genuine growth in the number of floating voters who support them, or a hard core gaining greater influence due to low voter turnouts.

If UKIP does gain more votes and more seats than the Liberal Democrats on June 10th, this will have a profound effect on the strategies chosen by political leaders. Many will interpret such a defeat as a punishment for adopting an uncritical pro-European line alongside a critical stance to the Iraq war. That is, pro-Europeanism is viewed more unfavourably by the electorate than any advantages provided by their anti-war position.

If the UKIP vote surges, like that other wave of electoral protest, the arrival of the Greens in the European elections of 1988, then we will probably see the mainstream parties tack more towards a Eurosceptic or Eurorealist position on Europe. This will prove divisive for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who hold cohorts of vocal and disgruntled Europhiles in their ranks.

(23.13, 24th May 2004)


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