Nigel Farage speaks during a public meeting held in the Sage building on April 23, 2014 in Gateshead. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Election success for Ukip in England could encourage Scottish independence

A strong performance by Farage's party could signal to Scotland that England may vote to leave the EU in a future in/out referendum. 

Anyone who ever said European elections aren’t interesting might want to reconsider that thought. While the latest polls show eurosceptic parties on course to make significant gains across the EU, new polling commissioned by IPPR and the universities of Edinburgh and Cardiff shows that next month’s outcome will likely differ as much between Britain’s home nations as it does between the EU member states.

European Election Voting Intentions, April 2014 (%)

Party

England

Wales

Scotland

Labour

30

39

31

Conservative

22

18

12

Liberal Democrats

11

7

7

Plaid Cymru/SNP

--

11

33

UKIP

29

20

10

Other

8

6

6

N of respondents

2846

793

782

In England, Labour is facing fierce competition from Ukip to finish first, with the Conservatives falling well into third place. Ed Miliband's party has much to be pleased about in Wales where it commands a resounding 19 percentage point lead over Ukip, which is battling the Tories for second. In Scotland, the SNP is running neck-and-neck with Labour to finish on top, while Ukip lags far behind.

Despite the "UK" in its name, Ukip is swiftly becoming the de facto English National Party - where at the moment it can count on nearly one in three votes. Its appeal, however, isn’t nearly as strong among Welsh and Scottish voters. In Wales, one in five voters intend to vote Ukip, while in Scotland support dwindles down to only one in 10 voters. Even though Ukip considers itself a British-wide party, the research shows English identity accounts for a large chunk of its support. Those who identify more strongly with England than Britain are more than twice as likely to support Ukip than those who more strongly identify with Britain.

European Election Voting Intention by National Identity, England, April 2014 (%)

 

English only/More English than British

Equal English & British

British only/More British than English

Labour

24

25

33

Conservative

22

31

18

Liberal Democrats

7

10

19

UKIP

42

26

19

Other

6

7

10

N of respondents

943

1160

546

Differing views between the home nations aren’t just restricted to next month’s European election. It’s very clear there are mixed feelings regarding the UK’s membership of the EU. When asked about a possible EU referendum, the Scottish view Britain’s membership much more favourably with a 16-point lead for "in", while in England  the "outs" lead by three points. In Wales, those desiring to remain also share a narrow lead.

Voting Intention in ‘In/Out’ EU referendum (%)

 

England

Wales

Scotland

Remain

37

39

48

Leave

40

35

32

Wouldn’t vote/Don’t Know

22

26

20

N of respondents

3695

1027

1014

Again, the data suggest that English identity is closely associated with an individual’s opposition to the EU. Those who see themselves as solely or mostly English are more likely to vote to leave the EU in a potential referendum while those seeing themselves as only or mostly British are more likely to vote to stay in. This contradicts attitudes in Scotland and Wales where national identity seems to have no impact with how one would vote in an in/out referendum.

EU Referendum Vote by National Identity in England (%)

 

English only/More English than British

Equally English & British

British only/More British than English

Remain

26

39

55

Leave

55

37

29

Wouldn’t Vote/Don’t Know

19

23

17

N of respondents

1171

1508

667

These differences in outlook towards the EU show that next month’s election could have a potential impact on the Scottish referendum debate. A strong performance by Ukip could signal to Scotland that England may vote to leave the EU in a future in/out referendum and possibly push more Scots into the "yes" camp.

Labour and the Conservative parties must also be cautious with how they choose to challenge Ukip. Striking a more eurosceptic tone to chase Ukip voters might simply play into the hands of Scottish nationalists. With the Scottish referendum less than four months after the European contest, Alex Salmond will certainly be watching next month’s election campaign south of the border.

 

Glenn Gottfried is research fellow at IPPR

Getty
Show Hide image

Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.