The UKIP surge is not all about Europe – and a referendum is not the solution

January 21, 2013 12:20 pm
While some Labourites might be celebrating the Tories’ discomfort over Europe, Labour must learn some lessons too. Lord Ashcroft’s research on UKIP considerers reveals that almost a quarter of those currently considering UKIP voted Labour in 2010. UKIP’s support is underpinned by a strong showing amongst C1s and C2s, the very groups which drag down Labour’s vote – workers towards the bottom end of the pay scale, struggling to get by with increased living costs, while a difficult business climate and redundancy continue to threaten. What Ashcroft has usefully revealed is that Europe is not the top concern amongst potential UKIP voters: only  a quarter of UKIP considerers put Britain’s relationship with the EU as one of the top three issues facing Britain, and only 7% put it top. The biggest issues are economic growth, welfare, immigration and the deficit.
Ashcroft’s message to the Tories is this: don’t think that a referendum is the answer to the UKIP surge. It isn’t, because that’s not really the problem. Only hardcore UKIP supporters who were already voting that way before the current upswing are concerned above all else with Britain’s relationship in Europe. UKIP considerers are pessimistic, see Britain as getting worse over time, and are attracted by UKIP’s promise of an easy answer that will solve everything. Concerns about money going to Europe, and into international aid, are pieces of the picture they have built up of a political elite which does not share their values.  The biggest area of disconnect is immigration, where UKIP’s policy attracts much higher support than its policy of leaving the EU. Let’s not tear ourselves apart on Europe, Ashcroft is saying to the Conservatives. Get it right on immigration, welfare and the economy, and the rest will follow.
So what would the message be to Labour? On a referendum, the same: if it won’t help the Conservatives, it won’t help us either. One interesting nugget in Ashcroft’s research is that UKIP considerers don’t see UKIP as the best people to defend Britain’s interests in Europe. There is an awareness that voting UKIP is a protest vote to send a message rather than a vote for a party that can actually act in their interests. Cameron’s use of the veto, ill-advised though it was, brought support for a British exit down from above 50% to 41%, according to YouGov research quoted by John Curtice, while support for remaining in the EU increased from 31% up to a level 41%. If people see evidence of British politicians actively fighting for British interests in Europe, they are more likely to accept the idea of Britain remaining within it.
By promoting British interests actively in Europe, Labour can secure better terms for British businesses and push for reform where it’s needed. Douglas Alexander was clear what reforms Labour has in mind in his Chatham House speech, given the day before Cameron was scheduled to deliver his speech in Amsterdam: tighter transitional arrangements around free movement of labour, more budgetary restraint, and reform of structural funding and the CAP are all part of it.
But since Europe in voters’ minds is not an issue separate from all others, talking about Europe will not work in isolation: we need to demonstrate that we understand broader concerns about immigration and welfare, accept where we went wrong in power, and have solid plans for what we would do to restrict abuses in both these areas. And as for the economy, the message is the same for Europe as it is for Britain: austerity isn’t working. We need a plan for jobs and growth, as much in the EU as nationally, and the reason why things have not gone well is because Europe’s leaders have not delivered this plan.
Ashcroft advises his party not to worry too much about a UKIP rout in the 2014 European elections. Our attitude must be different. In opposition, our job is to gain support step by step at every opportunity between now and 2015. The more votes we win in 2014, the more we will win in 2015, and those currently considering UKIP include exactly the kinds of voters whose support we need for a victory at Westminster.
  • Francis Gerald Allen

    This polling/research by Ashcroft needs to be given plenty of attention by Labour. For me personally, and maybe for most othe rmembers/supporters of Labour and the broader Labour movement, my knowledge of U.K.I.P. is the perssona of cheeky chappie Nigel Farrage, with a smile and a piint in his hand. When you peel away the smile and the pint, what’s revealed ala his appearances on such as Question time etc and take his messianic ranting over the E.U. is a very reactionary set of statements(exactly what you would expect of somebody who made something like £25m.+ and then took early retirement from the City/Banking industry, also the only other U.K.I.P. spokesperson that I have ever come across, again on Question Time is the President/Chairman and he comes over as a big as a reactionary as Farrage. So therefore the only conclusion that I can ever come to about U.K.I.P. is that they are the Little Englanders we have always thought them to be and as such they are even bigger austerity cheerleaders deficit cutters, public service slashers than Cameron,Clegg or the rest of the Coalition class warriors will ever be. What is neede is some sort of campaign to expose the true reactionary nature of U.K.I.P.

  • Ian Young

    “The biggest area of disconnect is immigration, where UKIP’s policy attracts much higher support than its policy of leaving the EU. ”

    I think that is spot on and noticed the free-market minded Nigel Farage on Question Time in Lincolnshire last week opportunistically making the point that the immigrant influx is down to a bosses’s free-for-all to ratchet down wage levels rather than resorting to crude dog whistle racism.

    Immigration is not a big issue among workers that are still fortunate enough to have kept strong collective bargaining agreements (in which EU migrant and British workers have equal T&Cs) and/or have industry training councils that encourage an influx of locally trained apprentices (as its not the Polish government’s responsibility to skill up the UK workforce).

    Labour’s acceptance of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws and labour market deregulation in the 90s and its refusal to join other European (and pro EU) social democratic parties in opposing the Bolkerstein Directive no longer plays with the C2 and C1 groups that deserted Labour in the 80s.

    Witness Peter Mandelson’s patronising remarks in 2009 about power workers being xenophobic when Unite organised their members against wholesale contract worker dumping from Italy.

    I do not relish the prospect of canvassing in the next general election to defend a policy on labour and trade union rights that is to the right of a repositioned UKIP, that has been learning a few tricks from Alex Salmon.

    • Dave*

      To understand people’s anger and lack of trust in the Labour Party one only has to read the London Evening Standard article by Labour’s former No.10 speech writer, Andrew Neather, on 23 October, 2009 entitled:- Don’t Listen To The Whingers, London Needs Immigrants (do a web search for it, as I am not sure if weblinks are allowed on here).
      “Drafts were handed out in summer 2000 only with extreme reluctance: there was a paranoia about it reaching the media… the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural. I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense
      that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to
      rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of
      date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far. Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing. For despite Roche’s keenness to make her big speech and to be upfront, there was a reluctance elsewhere in government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour’s core white working-class vote. This shone through even in the published report: the “social outcomes” it talks about are solely those for immigrants. And this first-term immigration policy got no mention among the
      platitudes on the subject in Labour’s 1997 manifesto, headed Faster,
      Firmer, Fairer. The results were dramatic. In 1995, 55,000 foreigners were granted the right to settle in the UK. By 2005 that had risen to 179,000… In addition, hundreds of thousands of migrants have come from the new EU member states since 2004, most requiring neither visas nor permission to work or settle. The UK welcomed an estimated net 1.5 million immigrants in the decade to 2008… Part by accident, part by design, the Government had created its longed-for immigration boom. But ministers wouldn’t talk about it.”
      The party knew that allowing millions of people into the country with no regard to qualifications or skills would hit its own supporters hardest and that was the reason for its subterfuge, claiming dishonestly that it expected numbers of around “13,000”. That is how it turned out of course as wages were undercut widely and many of the indigenous population either lost their jobs or were asked to reapply at far less advantageous wage rates and conditions.

      This is but one major reason why so many people no longer trust the Labour party of today. It can and does indulge in endless spin and soundbite politics, but that doesn’t cut the mustard. The party has done that for years. You lose people’s trust by lying to them and deceiving them. You don’t win it back by waving your arms about like puppets and sounding like a stuck record by repeating yourself ad infinitim when asked difficult questions.

      Labour is now in the unenviable position of the boy who cried wolf: many people simply don’t believe a word they say any more. Perhaps that is why the party is now so cynical in the way it criticizes others and makes its grand pronouncements. Perhaps it knows its been rumbled and has decided it may as well not worry about Truth and accountability any more? It might work with the young, the naive and the none-too-bright, but I’m not sure about everyone else.

      • gunnerbear

        Plus of course Gordon Brown then decided to ram-raid the pensions industry and take billions out of our pension pots…..Labour….never trust New Labour ever again. Naturally, Red Ed. also denies all involvement as well with the wrecking of the energy market when he introduced his ‘reforms’ and of course he screamed for expensive ‘green energy’ – the high costs of which directly threaten UK jobs.

        • Dave*

          Spot on gunnerbear, and a wise warning to others. They impoverished millions, and the poorest at that!

  • Tracey Hill

    UKIP are certainly little Englanders – actually the party name is incorrect – they should be called “ENGIP” as most of their support is in England. I agree exposing them is good, although the Ashcroft research did show that UKIP considerers did not respond well to negative comments about the UKIP leadership. Maybe that’s always the case when political parties are negative about each other, which they clearly have to be sometimes. It’s not the whole story though – if we’re negative about UKIP and don’t have anything to say about the issues that underly UKIP support such as the economy and immigration/welfare/capacity and affordability of public services, we will be seen to be dodging the real questions.

    • Dave*

      And today, 7th May, 2014, Labour certainly is seen that way.
      A supporter of the Greens I conversed with yesterday on this site says he asked a Labour MEP candidate broadly what Labour’s position was on the EU and the candidate angrily rebuffed his question, saying “the issues are far too complicated – you are either for us or against us.”
      For or against what exactly?
      If as you claim “UKIP are certainly little Englanders”, and in the light of sustained attacks of ‘racism’ towards UKIP in the broadest possible terms from the main Westminster parties and mainstream media, how do you explain today’s UKIP press release by 50 multi-ethnic members and candidates of UKIP?

      Today leading members of UKIP including Steven Woolfe UKIP’s Economics Spokesman, Amjad Bashir UKIP’s Small Business Spokesman, Winston McKenzie UKIP’s Commonwealth Spokesman and Andrew Charalambous UKIP’s Housing Spokesman have the lead letter in The Independent we publish their letter below:

      We are UKIP members, candidates, spokespersons and representatives of the party’s broad range of supporters from minority ethnic and religious backgrounds. We support UKIP’s core values including its zero-tolerance approach to racism and discrimination, and its commitment to withdrawal from the European Union.

      We are deeply concerned about what appears to be a concerted
      effort by the media to misrepresent UKIP’s policy on immigration and to
      portray the party and its members as racist or xenophobic.

      We have not faced discrimination within the party and we
      actively support the party’s practice of taking disciplinary action
      against any member who behaves in a discriminatory manner. UKIP has
      dealt rapidly with the small number of cases where such behaviour has
      taken place and has sent out a strong message that it will not be

      UKIP believes that immigration should be controlled by the UK
      government and not the EU. Migrants of all origins should have the
      right to apply to live and work in the UK and be entitled to equality of
      treatment secured by a points-based system without positive
      discrimination for those from EU member states. UKIP has never sought to
      abolish immigration, encourage repatriation, apportion blame or attack
      migrants or their families.

      Increasingly UKIP members are becoming subject to physical and verbal
      abuse. Members from minority backgrounds who have faced genuine racist
      abuse are now abused by our opponents. Many have also suffered the
      humiliation of being called “Uncle Toms” or apologists for a racist
      party. This level of abuse is unacceptable in a modern democracy. We
      call on all those who wish to have a mature debate on immigration to
      cease perpetuating the falsehood that UKIP is “racist”, its members
      “xenophobic”. We demand opponents no longer engage in physical or verbal
      abuse and support UKIP in fighting to rid politics of racism,
      discrimination and sectarianism.

      Steven Woolfe UKIP Economics Spokesman
      Amjad Bashir UKIP Small Business Spokesman
      Winston McKenzie UKIP Commonwealth Spokesman
      Andrew Charalambous UKIP Housing Spokesman
      Shneur Odze UKIP North West MEP Candidate
      Dr Raj Chandran Candidate (and ex-mayor of) Gedling, ex-Commissioner Racial Equality Commission *
      Pastor Annette Reid UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Rachel Hunte UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Marilyn Jeffrey UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Jenefer Parke-Blair UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Herman Lyken UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Winston Kennedy UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Rathy Alargaratnam UKIP Candidate (Morden)
      Maxine Spencer UKIP Candidate (Holborn and Islington)
      Emmanuel Ehirim UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Pastor Marjorie King UKIP Candidate (Croydon North)
      Przemek Skwirczynski Chairman Friends of Poland in UKIP and candidate (Croydon North)
      Tomasz Zajaczkowski Secretary Friends of Poland in UKIP and candidate
      Julian Conway Chairman Friends of Israel in UKIP
      Peter Redstone Chairman UKIP in Israel
      Lee Waters Chairman Gedling (UKIP Anglo – Italian Friends)
      Francois Loi Vice Chairman Gedling (UKIP Anglo – Italian Friends)
      Dirk Muller UKIP Candidate (Croydon North) and UKIP Friends of Germany
      Ace Nnoram UKIP candidate ( Croydon )
      Pauline McQueen UKIP Candidate (Tower Hamlets)
      Nicholas McQueen UKIP Candidate (Tower Hamlets)
      Annamaria Mignano UKIP Candidate (Tower Hamlets)
      Bertlyn Springer UKIP Candidate (Tower Hamlets)
      Tony Registe UKIP candidate (Tower Hamlets)
      Amir Latif UKIP candidate (Finchley)
      Cllr Tariq Saeed UKIP councillor (Barking)
      Syed Iliyas Hussain UKIP candidate (Barnet)
      Eddie Otoyo UKIP Candidate ( Lambeth)
      Bryan Tomilinson UKIP candidate (Hilligndon)
      Barry Leavers UKIP Candidate ( Hillingdon)
      Ray McKennon UKIP member (Hillingdon)
      Heidi Rao UKIP member (Hillingdon)
      Khalid Khan UKIP candidate (Barking)
      Keith Rowe Chairman UKIP Birmingham
      George Konstandinidis UKIP Eastern Region Chairman
      Stephen Dion Chairman Telford & Wrekin and candidate (Wolverhampton)
      Jehad Soliman` UKIP Branch Secretary Kettering
      Ismael Patel UKIP member – Leicester Branch
      Avvar Taggar UKIP Candidate (Coventry)
      Anish Patel UKIP member
      Chris Apostolou Chairman Barnet Branch
      Edmund Silverman UKIP member Gedling
      Mark Davies UKIP candidate (Manchester)
      Thomas Slivnik MA Cantab, PHD Cantab FTICA UKIP member”

      What will the main Westminster parties and the mainstream media do now?
      Carry on the slurs regardless? And if so, who are the real bigots in
      this scenario?

  • Pingback: Riding immigration to Westminster | Animal Politicum


  • News Scotland have voted No to independence, say LabourList readers

    Scotland have voted No to independence, say LabourList readers

    In a few hours time, we will find out that Scotland has voted against independence – according to LabourList readers, anyway. 77% of those who took our survey this week said they thought that the outcome of today’s referendum would be a No vote. Despite polls have closed in over the past fortnight, our readers are confident that Scots will have chosen to preserve the Union. 23% think that the result will be in favour of Yes. Only two polls in […]

    Read more →
  • News Lift cap on borrowing so councils can build – say Labour PPCs, councillors and AMs

    Lift cap on borrowing so councils can build – say Labour PPCs, councillors and AMs

    A group of London-based Prospective Parliamentary Candidates, councillors and London Assembly Members have written an open letter (published in the Guardian), calling on party leadership to go further in their policy commitments when it comes to building houses. Although the letter praises Ed’s pledge that the next Labour government “will build 200,000 homes a year by 2020″, the cohort which include urge leadership to commit to lifting what they deem the “arbitrary cap [placed on councils] on borrowing to build”. […]

    Read more →
  • News Are Labour going to make the NHS the focal point of the 2015 campaign?

    Are Labour going to make the NHS the focal point of the 2015 campaign?

    Earlier this week, a poll found that Labour hold an 18-point lead over the Tories as the most trusted party on the NHS – the only topic voters consider a “major issue” that sees a Labour lead. The NHS being a crucial issue of the Scottish referendum, with both sides accusing the other of lying. Many of today’s votes rest on whether they trust Yes Scotland or Better Together’s claims about the health service. Now reports say that Labour are considering […]

    Read more →
  • Comment We stand up for human value – we proudly defend the Human Rights Act

    We stand up for human value – we proudly defend the Human Rights Act

    If you’re part of the Labour Party, or hold any similar values, you will certainly share the absolute belief in respect and dignity for everyone. I don’t think anyone in our movement, with our principles, would disagree. And so, with those common values, we are entirely right to stand up, loud and proud, for the Human Rights Act. The publication this week of Human Rights: Reflections on the 1998 Act by Jonathan Cooper in Stephen Hockman’s Law Reform 2015 (with […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland Friendship and solidarity must prevail, as the fog clears

    Friendship and solidarity must prevail, as the fog clears

    The air hangs thick this morning with the referendum. Last night a deep fog rolled down across Edinburgh, but in reality it is the campaign which has blotted the vision and stopped even the keenest of observers from seeing what lies just a few footsteps ahead. The final days has provided one crucial clarification though – the No campaign is capable of great passion and powerful rhetoric. Mocked, endlessly criticised, a reputation dragged through the muck. Despite it all – […]

    Read more →