August 18, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
Pubs of Ramsgate and Margate, get the beers in, Nigel Farage is coming to town. Yes, the UKIP leader has ‘thrown his hat into the ring’ for selection as UKIP candidate for South Thanet in the 2015 general election. Although he claims that he still has to be officially selected as eight others are vying with him, I will eat my hat if he isn’t their candidate.
So, given he had a choice of many constituencies, and UKIP would have wanted to pick the one with the best chance of I him winning, it is worth looking at why South Thanet, in East Kent, and soon to be vacated by Conservative MP Laura Sandys, has been chosen.
A wonderful Spectator blog by Ian Warren as kindly done that for us. You can click here to read the whole thing, and I recommend it, as it is excellent, but for the purposes of what this blog is aiming to achieve, I will summarize the main points.
1 There are fewer younger households and almost no student households. These two groups are not convinced by UKIP’s Euroscepticism of anti-Immigrant fervour nor their conservative social views.
2 There are fewer ethnic minorities, again not natural UKIP voters.
3 The poorer demographic groups, likely to lean to Labour, are also not strongly represented.
4 The ‘political balance’ of the constituency favours UKIP. This is where the demographic characteristics plus prior voting behaviour in at the 2005 and 2010 general elections, and the 2012 and 2014 local elections are taken account of. UKIP and the conservatives seem similar but the inclusion of homes of lower income families and transient singles in terraced houses, who may transfer from Labour to UKIP but won’t vote Conservative, helps UKIP.
5 The 2013 local council election results, which were very positive, have given UKIP a strong local political presence in terms of councillors.
6 UKIP dominated the voting in the EU Parliamentary elections in June, which has helped embolden the local party, recruit new member, and give UKIP more political credibility.
All of this leaves the Labour Party in a particular quandary. If they throw resources at Thanet South, the transfer of votes from Conservative to UKIP
might hand Labour an unexpected seat in an election at which every seat counts. If Labour ignore the seat, and UKIP wins, that will mean that UKIP continues their rise as a credible opposition in the Labour heartlands as well as Conservative ones.
Before Farage announced his candidacy, a poll in South Thanet showed that Labour on 35%, UKIP on 30% and the Conservatives on 28%. That makes it just the sort of seat that UKIP could sneak under this election system.
For UKIP, the aim is simple, they need a seat in Westminster at the next election. Farage must have chosen this carefully. You can expect massively negative campaigning from the Conservatives, and Labour will not want Farage to succeed either. Fascinating.