An interview with Nigel Farage MEP on last night’s Westminster Hour confirmed UKIP’s determination to undertake a significant repositioning and attack Cameron’s Conservatives from the right (see our 15 January post here).
Mr Farage told his Radio 4 interviewer that there were now three social democratic parties in British politics and that UKIP was repositioning to the centre-right because no-one else was there. David Cameron, he said, had abandoned traditional conservative territory on school reform, tax policy, immigration and protecting the greenbelt and this had given UKIP a tremendous opportunity.
He did not disagree with the interviewer’s contention that UKIP was trying to pick up the Thatcherite torch and said that UKIP was now determined to reach the many stay-at-homes who had stopping voting for the Tories or any political party in recent years.
He said that UKIP was talking to Conservatives in the Lords and Commons and that he hoped that a straw would soon break the camel’s back and a defection would occur.
The danger in UKIP’s strategy – apart from looking very opportunistic – is that it will frighten the non-Tory-minded voters who have supported UKIP in the past. Although 45% of UKIP’s supporters came from the Tories at the 2004 European Elections (according to an ICM/ Guardian survey at the time) 20% had been Labour voters and 11% had crossed from the LibDems. A decidedly Thatcherite UKIP may also upset some of its MEPs and other leading members who have been UKIP supporters because of a Shore/Benn-like Euroscepticism, rather than because of any the party’s domestic policies. The whole Kilroy-Silk episode showed how UKIP was capable of vicious infighting and this strategy may yet cause more internal problems.
After gaining 16.1% of the vote at the 2004 European elections UKIP failed to come close to winning any seat at the 2005 general election.