The comeback kid. Photo:Getty
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Why the Tories still have a spring in their step

Senior Conservatives are drawing comfort from Binyamin Netanyhu's late comeback in the Israeli elections.

Why aren’t the Tories more worried about the course of the election campaign? In the autumn of last year they were predicting they would take a lead by Christmas. Then January. Then the Easter Weekend. Now the promised moment when the electorate looks at the whites of Ed Miliband’s eyes and returns to the loving embrace of David Cameron has been delayed until the last ten days of the campaign.

Simon Heffer, who writes in the NS this week, suggests that the Conservatives are drawing hope from an unexpected source - the Israeli elections. Binyamin Netanyahu had been expected to lose until the last days of the campaign, when he turned it around in the last few days with anti-Arab rhetoric and a return to Netanyahu’s favoured issues of security and defence. Senior Conservatives now believe that an equivalent focus on the threat of Miliband propped up by the SNP will have the same effect on Ukip-aligned voters and soft Labour supporters. That the polls in Israel underestimated the scale of Likud’s support has also put a spring in Tory steps, who still hope that Labour’s vote share will be below that of the polls.

Of the mood among the Tories, Heffer writes:

Candidates know the campaign must be ‘turbocharged’, not least because of its length, with punters bored and the players exhausted. ‘There was a calculation that Miliband would bog it,’ one observed. ‘He hasn’t – yet – so we must think again.’ And despite the obstacles to a pro-Tory majority, a minister invited comparison not with 1992, but with the recent Netanyahu victory in Israel, which polls had discounted.

That victory happened only by Netanyahu warning of Arabs taking over Israel. Will Cameron warn of the Scots doing the same to England?”

Are the Tories right? What is certain is that the SNP attack line is certainly starting to cut through on the doorstep and is spooking Labour candidates. But whether or not it will actually shift opinion is another question. Netanyahu was able to draw on a reputation – or a rap sheet, depending on your perspective – of toughness and aggression toward’s Israel’s enemies. Cameron simply isn’t seen in the same way by British voters. Remember, too, that Israeli polling is much more volatile than Britain’s. The quick answer is that it’s too early to tell whether or not the Tories will succeed in overturning the odds.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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