Where will Nigel Farage stand in 2015?

After confirming that he will stand for a seat, the UKIP leader is likely to have his eye on Boston and Skegness.

In one of his many TV appearances over the weekend, Nigel Farage confirmed that he would stand for a seat at the next general election, so where might the UKIP leader try his luck? In 2010, he stood against John Bercow in Buckingham, but is unlikely to do so again after only finishing third (despite the three main parties standing aside to give the Speaker a free run) last time round.

UKIP didn't manage second place in any constituency, but there were three south west seats where it finished third: North Cornwall (where it won 5 per cent of the vote), North Devon (7 per cent) and Torridge and West Devon (5.5 per cent). But rather than any of these, my guess is that Farage will look to Lincolnshire, where UKIP is now the official opposition after winning 16 county council seats in the and depriving the Tories of overall control. The party performed notably well in Boston, where it won 10 of the 11 divisions after capitalising on local concern over immigration (the town has been nicknamed "Little Poland" due to its high eastern European population, the largest outside of London). 

As a result, one of the seats Farage is likely to be eyeing for 2015 is Boston and Skegness, where the party finished fourth in 2010 with 9.5 per cent of the vote (its second best result after Buckingham). There were three other Conservative-held constituencies where UKIP received more votes than the Tories on Thursday: Thanet North, Thanet South and Great Yarmouth. Any one of these is a potential target for Farage (the most marginal is Great Yarmouth, where the Tory majority is 4,276).

A study by Electoral Calculus suggested that UKIP would fail to win a seat at Westminster unless it won at least 24 per cent of the vote, but it's worth remembering that the Greens accomplished that feat with just 0.9 per cent of the vote in 2010; don't assume a uniform swing. If UKIP concentrates its resources and builds a local following in targeted constituences, it's quite possible that the Commons benches will acquire a purple tinge after 2015. 

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage addresses the media in central London on May 3, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.