Nigel Farage is interviewed in Kelham Hall, home to Newark and Sherwood District Council. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Ed Miliband is warned of Ukip’s threat to Labour: it cuts into his party's key division

The most detailed analysis yet of Ukip’s performance shows its threat to the Labour Party.

“Vote Ukip, get Labour” – the Tories’ slightly desperate war-cry in the face of the surge in popularity of Nigel Farage’s merry band may well be proved totally wrong. But the loss of a slogan would be a small price to pay by the Conservative Party for the good news they’ll be reading this week that the Labour Party is more vulnerable to the Ukip threat than once thought.

A leading expert in the rightwing party’s rise, Dr Matthew Goodwin, who frequently analyses Ukip and the political landscape changing as we approach the 2015 general election, has done the most comprehensive study yet of Ukip’s performance in recent elections and has discovered Labour’s vulnerability in the face of Farage’s party.

This new analysis of Ukip’s performance has found that the party has made impressive inroads into a variety of largely working-class, traditionally Labour-voting constituencies. According to the Independent, the study concludes that the Labour Party’s complacency over Ukip’s impact on their electoral chances could be a key factor in Ed Miliband’s fight to reach No 10.

Goodwin has identified five key constituencies for Labour that are particularly precarious in the face of Ukip’s success. These include Great Grimsby, the incumbent of which, Austin Mitchell MP, will be standing down in 2015, and Ashfield in Nottingham, the MP of which is Gloria De Piero, shadow women and equalities minister and often tipped as a “rising star” in Miliband’s shadow cabinet.

This report, which suggests Ukip’s popularity in key Labour constituencies is partly due to concern over immigration levels, must be worrying for Miliband and many will accuse him of being too low-key about the impact of Ukip on the Labour vote.

Yet the complacent belief that the rise of a rightwing fringe party will only snatch Tory votes and is therefore an asset to Labour is one that has long since passed. Even back in April 2013, over a year before Ukip’s spectacular European election results, it was reported that Labour had launched a review into Ukip’s popularity; clearly the party was aware that, particularly in heartlands of the blue collar vote, Ukip could do some damage to the left as well as the right.

So Labour has been aware of the problem for a while, but only just seems to be waking up to the solution. Its message on immigration has grown tougher, but the communication of the message has been soft at best. “It is not prejudiced to worry about immigration,” is Miliband’s line, “it is understandable.” But he hasn’t said it loud enough, so it simply doesn’t sound like he’s “worried” enough. The shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves has also toughened Labour’s stance on EU migrants, as her suggestion came out yesterday that migrants should be denied benefits until they have contributed through the tax system. This had more impact as it came directly after, and outdid, the PM’s plan for immigrants only to be able to claim benefits for three months.

If Labour continues to move clearly in this direction, it will go some way in countering the threat from Ukip. However, it is likely to be a fiery division line in the party. Although there are many Labour MPs, particularly in working-class northern seats, who believe that their party should be speaking out about immigration and welfare, there are many others who warn the party not to try and “out-Ukip Ukip”. It is a divide over how the party should play current political, electoral challenges – but it also cuts into the key tension in Labour ideology: the old tug between more “Blue Labour” ideals, and the New Labour heritage that Miliband, despite his protestations, has not quite shaken off.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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In focusing on the famous few, we risk doing a disservice to all victims of child sexual abuse

There is a danger that we make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward in future. 

Back in the 1970s when relations between journalists and police were somewhat different to today a simple ritual would be carried out around the country at various times throughout the week.

Reporters, eager for information for their regional newspaper, would take a trip to the local station and there would be met by a desk sergeant who would helpfully skim through details in the crime Incident Book.

Among the entries about petty thefts, burglaries and road accidents there would occasionally be a reference to an allegation of incest. And at this point the sergeant and journalist might well screw-up their faces, shake their heads and swiftly move on to the next log. The subject was basically taboo, seen as something ‘a bit mucky,’ not what was wanted in a family newspaper.

And that’s really the way things stayed until 1986 when ChildLine was set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in the wake of a BBC programme about child abuse. For the first time children felt able to speak out about being sexually assaulted by the very adults whose role in life was to protect them.

And for the first time the picture became clear about what incest really meant in many cases. It wasn’t simply a low level crime to be swept under the carpet in case it scratched people’s sensitivities. It frequently involved children being abused by members of their close family, repeatedly, over many years.

Slowly but surely as the years rolled on the NSPCC continued to press the message about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, while encouraging victims to come forward. During this time the corrosive effects of this most insidious crime have been painfully detailed by many of those whose lives have been derailed by it. And of course the details of the hundreds of opportunistic sexual assaults committed by Jimmy Savile have been indelibly branded onto the nation’s consciousness.

It’s been a long road - particularly for those who were raped or otherwise abused as children and are now well into their later years - to bring society around to accepting that this is not to be treated as a dark secret that we really don’t want to expose to daylight. Many of those who called our helpline during the early days of the Savile investigation had never told anyone about the traumatic events of their childhoods despite the fact they had reached retirement age.

So, having buried the taboo, we seem to be in danger of giving it the kiss of life with the way some cases of alleged abuse are now being perceived.

It’s quite right that all claims of sexual assault should be investigated, tested and, where there is a case, pursued through the judicial system. No one is above the law, whether a ‘celebrity’ or a lord.

But we seem to have lost a sense of perspective when it comes to these crimes with vast resources being allocated to a handful of cases while many thousands of reported incidents are virtually on hold.

The police should never have to apologise for investigating crimes and following leads. However, if allegations are false or cannot be substantiated they should say so. This would be a strength not a weakness.

It is, of course, difficult that in many of the high-profile cases of recent times the identities of those under investigation have not been officially released by the police but have come to light through other means. Yet we have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it would be and once names are common knowledge the results of the investigations centring on them should be made public.

When it emerges that someone in the public eye is being investigated for non-recent child abuse it obviously stirs the interest of the media whose appetite can be insatiable. This puts pressure on the police who don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing offenders to slip through their hands.  And so there is a danger, as has been seen in recent cases, that officers lack confidence in declaring there is a lack of evidence or the allegations are not true. 

The disproportionate weight of media attention given to say, Sir Edward Heath, as opposed to the Bradford grooming gang sentenced this week, shows there is a danger the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. This threatens the painstaking work invested in ensuring the public and our institutions recognise child abuse as a very real danger. 

Whilst high profile cases have helped the cause there is now a real risk that the all-encompassing focus on them does both victims of abuse and those advocating on their behalf a fundamental disservice.

As the public watches high -profile cases collapsing amidst a media fanfare genuine convictions made across the country week in week out go virtually unannounced. If this trend continues they may start to believe that child sexual abuse isn’t the prolific problem we know it to be.

So, while detectives peer into the mists of time, searching for long lost clues, we have to face the unpalatable possibility that offences being committed today will in turn only be investigated fully in years or decades' time because there is not the manpower to deal with them right now.

So, now the Goddard Inquiry is in full swing, taking evidence about allegations of child sex crimes involving ‘well known people’ as well as institutional abuse, how do we ensure we don’t fail today’s victims?

If they start to think their stories are going to be diminished by the continuing furore over how some senior public figures have been treated by the police they will stay silent. Therefore we have to continue to encourage them to come forward, to give them the confidence of knowing they will be listened to.

If we don’t we will find ourselves back in those incestuous days where people conspired to say and do nothing to prevent child abuse.

Peter Wanless is Chief Executive of the NSPCC.