By Harry Phibbs
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I found it hard to believe at first, but Lord Ashcroft's research about the European Union not being the key factor in UKIP's support is proving to be correct.
In the Eastleigh by-election on Thursday it is clear that they are going to do astonishingly well. Polls published today and yesterday have them pushing Labour into fourth place.
Telling UKIP supporters that the Conservatives offer an in/out EU referendum while the Lib Dems do not appears to have had limited impact. The concerns are far wider. Angry about spending cuts? Vote UKIP. Angry about the failure to cut spending? Vote UKIP. Angry that the 50p tax rate was cut? Vote UKIP. Angry that it was only cut to 45p, not 40p? Vote UKIP. Angry about immigration, gay marriage, the NHS….
Tim makes the point that UKIP's manifesto is contradictory. Even if it wasn't, they are now the de fault protest option untainted by power.
What else are voters who wish to register a by-election protest supposed to do? Labour were in Government too recently (and their candidate in Eastleigh expressed sorrow that Margaret Thatcher wasn't killed in the Brighton bomb and that Argentina didn't win the Falklands War).
The Conservatives and Lib Dems are parties of Government.
So the bad news for the Conservatives is that the EU referendum pledge has had limited impact. The good news is that UKIP are also taking votes from Labour and the Lib Dems.
The Lib Dems used to thrive in by-elections as the protest party. UKIP are the new Lib Dems.