By Tim Montgomerie
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The Times (£) has published the third opinion poll of the Eastleigh by-election campaign and it will do nothing to correct the overwhelming media narrative that the Liberal Democrats are on course to keep the seat vacated by Chris Huhne. AIt puts the Lib Dems ahead by 5%. As with the other two polls (from Lord Ashcroft and then Survation) the Lib Dem share of the vote is down sharply but so, too, is the Tory vote. The party that is growing is UKIP;
Graphic from The Times
I haven't seen the data but I imagine the UKIP candidate is taking votes from across the political spectrum but I also imagine UKIP is hurting the Tories most – and in two ways. One by winning over otherwise Tory voters and two, by pulling the party away from reaching beyond its core vote. As I noted on Thursday morning it is obvious that the Tory campaign has been looking over its shoulder at UKIP, more than worrying about other kinds of voters. Tory leaflets are heavily emphasising harder-line Tory policies on immigration, welfare and Europe rather than, say, pensions, the NHS and childcare. Maria Hutchings is, herself, an almost ideal anti-UKIP candidate. Her views on gay marriage and leaving the EU mean that she's hardly a Cameroon. Matthew Parris has described her as a "the candidate of many ConservativeHome enthusiasts’ dreams"!
Click on the image to enlarge.
What is also clear is that the campaign of UKIP candidate Diane James has a definite right-wing populist flavour. One of its key leaflets in the campaign – "Diane's Manifesto, Putting Common Sense back into Government" – includes, in its own words, the following policies:
- Reduce everyone's taxes to a 31% flat tax;
- Phase out Employers' NI contributions over five years;
- Cut red tape for small businesses;
- Create one million new skilled jobs through public and private investment;
- Introduce an immediate five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement;
- End uncontrolled open-door immigration;
- More police on the beat;
- More severe penalties;
- Keep the NHS free at the point of delivery;
- Create more community support for people with disabilities;
- Restore free NHS dental and eye tests;
- End 'health tourism';
- Bring back the 'three Rs', re-introduce student grants, encourage the creation of new grammar schools;
- Reinstate dividend tax credit at 20%;
- Invest in nuclear power and stop renewable subsidies.
UKIP is, in other words, appealing to the right-wing heart but it's hardly appealing to any right-wing heads. UKIP want to cut taxes for "everyone" (yes, for "everyone") but they want an investment programme to create one million jobs; put more police on the beat and more people in prison; expand NHS services to the disabled; re-introduce student grants; improve pensions; and, not mentioned in Eastleigh but still party policy, they want to protect defence spending too. If proof was needed that UKIP is a protest rather than grown-up party then Diane's manifesto provides it.
One person who has realised that UKIP is no longer the home of Eurosceptic patriots who actually want to deliver change is Marta Andreasen – up until last night a UKIP MEP. Ms Andreasen has left UKIP and joined the Conservative Party in acknowledgement of David Cameron's new European policy. She describes the Tories as the "true referendum party". Welcome aboard Marta. I hope you'll be writing for ConHome before too long. We've certainly enjoyed having David Campbell Bannerman on our pages.