UKIP Can be the Ross Perot of the 2015 election
UKIP has seen a huge rise in its popularity since the 2010 general election when the party won 3.1% of the vote, now in the latest YouGov opinion poll they would win 12% if there was an election tomorrow. They are currently more popular than the Lib Dems, and are expected to win the upcoming European elections. Despite this the Conservatives are not mounting a sustained attack on UKIP instead there are talks of pacts like they are some sort of distant cousin rather than a party that could ruin any chance of a Conservative majority come 2015. To illustrate my point I am going to compare UKIP with Ross Perot the independent candidate who derailed two Republican campaigns in the 90’s.
There are several similarities between Perot and UKIP, firstly they are rebels against the established main parties, they both offer policies that people want to see (financial restraint in the case of Perot and lower immigration in the case of UKIP). They both reach sections of the public who feel ignored and most importantly they both never really stood a chance of winning an election. However this does not make them unimportant and UKIP have the potential to decide who gets into Number 10. I am going to show UKIP’s significance by looking at Ross Perot’s impact on the 1996 election, in 96 Ross Perot won 8.4% of the vote significantly less than in 92 when he gave Clinton the election. In 96 if Ross Perot was not present Bob Dole probably would have won Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee, now this would still not have won Dole the election however it would have been significantly closer and the effect of Perot on keeping Republicans at home in the belief their candidate had already lost is not measurable. Despite what I just said it is important to note a few differences between Perot supporters and UKIP supporters, Perot drew significant support from both Democrats and Republicans. While UKIP draws most of its support mainly from Conservatives, although there is support from Labours lost working class vote as well. Ross Perot was involved in the Presidential TV debates, UKIP so far will not be involved in any leadership debates in 2015 which will cut their media exposure significantly. Also UKIP is has engaged many voters who have lost interest in politics under New Labour and are significantly more populist than Ross Perot and draws a large amount of working class support while Perot’s support was mainly middle class. So although there are some similarities and I believe the election impact could be similar it is important to stress that I am not saying that Perot and UKIP are the same. The link with Perot is largely to illustrate how reasonable support for UKIP candidates in swing seats will lose the Conservatives the election and could give Labour a significant majority.