The opinion polls for the Euro Elections, due to take place on Thursday May 22nd, suggest that Labour will win with UKIP second. However many pundits suspect that UKIP will actually win – due to the greater motivation of UKIP supporters to actually vote. Many of those voting in England, and all of those voting in Northern Ireland, will also be given a ballot paper for the council elections. Elections will be held for 32 London boroughs, all 36 metropolitan boroughs, 73 district councils, 20 unitary authorities and five directly elected mayors.
The elections are skewed towards London as all the London council seats are up for election in most of the others only a third of seats are up for election. London is not UKIP strongest territory. Indeed UKIP are the anti-London party. In the canvassing I have been doing I have found litle support for them. Also that the support they have will often involve cross-voting. Some of the electors of the Ravenscourt Park Ward in Hammersmith and Fulham will vote UKIP in the Euro Elections but will during the same visit to the Polling Stations be voting for me and my fellow Conservative councillors when switching to the local elections.
In some of the outer London borough UKIP may do rather better. It looks as if they put up quite an effort in Hillingdon. In some borough they already have clusters of defectors – in Barking and Dagenham from Labour, in Merton and Hounslow from the Conservatives.
So in London they have a significant impact in vote splitting – in helping Labour retain control in certain councils, or the Lib Dems see off the Conservatives in Kingston and Sutton. UKIP tend to dismiss this point by saying that some of their support comes from those who would not otherwise have voted and also from some former Labour/Lib Dem supporters. But even if true the point still applies. Let us suppose a UKIP candidate wins 300 votes – half of whom would otherwise not have voted, 100 would otherwise have voted Conservative and 50 of whom would otherwise have voted Labour. There are plenty of councillors with majorities of under 50.
I would be surprised if UKIP gained a substantial number of councillors in the capital. My hunch is it will be nil in most – half a dozen here, three there, nine somewhere else. It will be interesting if they reach double figures in any borough.
What about elsewhere? They do well by the sea – Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton and Southend are all among unitary authorities going to the polls – although each with only a third of the seats up for election. Fareham has half its council seats up for election and UKIP already have a couple. Gosport and Hastings are district councils which also have have the seats voting. Among other areas of potential UKIP advance we have Thurrock.
Yet it seems quite likely that UKIP will win the Euro Elections yet not take control of a single one of the councils holding elections the same day. The evidence from the county council elections has been that where UKIP could have shared power they have turned down the chance feeling more suited to being a party of opposition and a party of protest.