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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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