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

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.