Could Ukip overtake the Lib Dems?

Lib Dems fall to seven per cent in new poll, just two points ahead of Ukip.

Lib Dems fall to seven per cent in new poll, just two points ahead of Ukip.

A year ago even the most ardent Ukip supporter wouldn't have suggested that their party could overtake the Lib Dems in the polls. But they're now just a few points between the two. The latest YouGov poll puts the Lib Dems on seven per cent (their joint lowest rating since the election), with Ukip two points behind on five per cent (down from six per cent the previous day). As Europe rises up the political agenda, there's every possibility that Nigel Farage's party could eventually overtake Nick Clegg's.

The main explanation for the surge in support for minority parties (their combined support is 15 per cent) is the entry of the Lib Dems into government, which has left them unable to compete for the protest vote. Their supporters have mainly defected to Labour (backed by 41 per cent of 2010 Lib Dem voters) but also to Ukip (backed by four per cent) and to the Greens (backed by seven per cent).

The problem for Ukip, of course, is that however strong their headline support is, they'll be lucky to win a seat at the next election. As for the Lib Dems, they may want to reassess their support for proportional representation. As things stand, on a uniform swing, they'd win nine seats.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.