Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt doing some Nigel Farage-based comedy. Photo: Getty
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How much of a threat is Ukip to the Lib Dems?

The Liberal Democrats aren't as universally europhile as you think.

Two years ago I made a bet with Patrick O’Flynn (Ukip's comms director, and former Daily Express political editor) that the Lib Dems would take more votes than Ukip at the 2015 general election. Messrs Ford and Goodwin, the authors of the recently published Revolt on the Right charting and explaining the rise of Ukip, published a soothing piece on Lib Dem Voice earlier today, to explain why Ukip offers little threat to the Lib Dems in 2015, and why my £20 is probably safe.

“There are relatively few Ukip-friendly Liberal Democrat held seats”, they opine, “as the two parties tend to appeal to very different demographic groups”. And indeed their data shows that the most endangered Lib Dem-held seat ranks a lowly 19th on the Ukip hit list. The next is an even more distant 62nd.

So, nothing to worry about there then.

Except every Lib Dem activist in the world knows this is largely nonsense.

At first glance, it seems mad for Lib Dems to worry about Ukip because the two parties seem so far apart in policy terms. Then you see Roger Lord, the jilted Ukip candidate for Clacton, has offered his support to the Lib Dems – and you wonder how easily folk can make the leap in the other direction. The answer lies in the European election results from May.

Could card-carrying and long-term Lib Dem voters, with their proud pro-European heritage, jump to Europe-hating Ukip? Yes – they could. Not only that – in May 2014 in the southwest, one of our heartlands, they actually did. The Tory vote in the region stayed pretty much flat, but Ukip's leapt by 143k – most of which was reflected in a Lib Dem decline of the vote (over 100k). And talk to many Lib Dems in the southwest and you’ll find that the party is not as universally europhile as many imagine.

What’s more, if the received wisdom is that one-third of Lib Dem votes in 2010 came from "true Lib Dems", a third came in tactical votes to keep Labour or the Tories out, and a third was a "none of the usual bunch" protest – then there’s a large chunk of disaffected voters happy to place a cross against anyone who will do most damage to the Labour or Tory vote share. Ukip (and the Greens) seem set to benefit from this.

So should we be having sleepless nights at the prospect of a Ukip onslaught? No? Despite all of the above, Ukip remains a much stronger problem for the Tories than for ourselves.

But I think I’m going to have to work a bit harder to keep my £20 out of Mr O’Flynn’s clutches.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

New Statesman
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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.