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How UKIP Can Win The 2015 Election Under First Past The Post

The results of the 2014 European elections demonstrate clearly that UKIP can indeed win a national election.  Many claim that this cannot be translated into 2015 General Election success due to the nature of the British voting system.  However, this short paper will argue that the electoral system can be made to serve UKIP’s to the detriment of the establishment parties.  This is based on 3 key facts:

  • UKIPs apparent disadvantage is based on perception rather than reality.
  • The three establishment parties are so similar they are nothing more than factions of a single Establishment party
  • The Establishment vote is split three ways while the UKIP vote is unified

The key to success in 2015 will be based on changing perceptions by demonstrating a two horse race and a three way split.  The system cannot be changed but the way people think about it can and it is this that can make all the difference.

A question of perception

The 2014 poll demonstrated that in terms of percentages more people in the UK sympathised with UKIP than with any other political party.  This is reality, the only reason this is not translated into General Election success is because people perceive UKIP defeat under the system as inevitable.  As such they believe a vote for UKIP is a wasted vote.  This creates a self-fulfilling prophesy that Establishment relies on to maintain its grip on power.

The 2014 election has gone some way to changing perceptions – people now know that UKIP can win a national election.  UKIP’s percentage of the vote is a reality; the supposed disadvantage of First Past the Post is only a perception.  Over the next 12 months UKIP needs to change the way the public thinks about First Past the Post and get them to practice conviction politics. This can be achieved by giving them a simple choice between two options.

Two Horse Race: Establishment versus UKIP

The key to UKIP’s success in 2015 will be to present the contest as a two horse race, a race involving two parties – the Establishment Party and the anti-Establishment UKIP.  If the public can be convinced that the three other “parties” are in reality three factions of a single establishment party then First Past the Post can work dramatically in UKIP’s favour.  Past experience suggests that it makes no difference which Establishment faction(s)form a government.  A vote for either of them is a vote for establishment interests and a policy of “more of the same”.  In 1997 people were voting for change, they thought that by voting for the Labour Party they would get that change – they didn’t!  Past is prologue.

The European Union is a central pillar of establishment thinking and it is inconceivable that anyone who has been allowed to rise to the top of an establishment party will be able to facilitate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  In November 2009 David Cameron repudiated his previous “cast iron guarantee” to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty after “persuasion” from European establishment grandees.  How can we trust Mr. Cameron’s supposed commitment for an in-out referendum on EU membership by 2017 after such a dramatic change of policy?  The likely reason for putting off a referendum to 2017 is to give the Establishment more time to subvert the popular will. Whatever their rhetoric the establishment parties will never give up on the EU because it is so central to the interests of those who run and control them.

The UK, like the rest of the Western world is not a true democracy but a “Managed Democracy”. Under this system the Establishment decides who the public is allowed to vote for.  The establishment media is not impartial.  Like the establishment parties it is run for the benefit of establishment interests.  It presents its favoured candidates in the best possible light and smears anyone deemed to be a threat to the establishment’s careful management of the system.

The recent showing by UKIP in the EU parliamentary elections suggests that if people were to vote confidently with their hearts UKIP could quite easily become the largest party in the polls next May.  Nevertheless, establishment “parties” will do what they can to bar UKIP from a role in Government.  A coalition of Labour and the Conservatives is more likely than a coalition between either of them and UKIP.  Due to its position on Europe, UKIP goes against the grain of the Establishment’s unwavering support for the EU.  We have already seen evidence of this concept in operation following UKIP’s 2014 electoral victory.

An article in the Thurrock Gazette on 29 May 2014 entitled Labour and Tories “weigh up grand coalition” to keep Ukip at bay gives us a glimpse of what might happen next year.  A Conservative-Labour coalition is not unlikely because as parts of the Establishment they have more in common with each other than they do with UKIP.  The Thurrock situation provides evidence for the two horse race thesis.

However, once the ingrained perception about First Past the Post is broken, all bets are off because the system itself and the rules of the game will be transformed.

Three Way Split for the Establishment Vote

Once the perception nut is cracked, the logic of First Past the Post swings more in UKIPs favour.  In a two horse race, people are more likely to vote on the basis of their political convictions and true interests.  That could be damaging to the Establishment parties because their own vote would be split three ways.  Once perceptions have been changed their apparent advantage under the system is first nullified, and ultimately turned into a weakness.

Add to this the significant segment of the population that currently does not vote and the current political system becomes very interesting indeed.  In the aftermath of the 2014 election it was noted that UKIP secured votes from people who had never voted before. It could be argued that the non-voting public are anti-establishment by definition and therefore more likely to support UKIP.  If UKIP demonstrates that it can succeed against the establishment a greater number of the non-voting public will be persuaded to go to the polls.

If systemic perceptions are changed, a three way split for the Establishment vote would weaken the establishment parties and strengthen UKIP.

About Chris Knowles (1 Articles)
Chris Knowles is a former member of the Labour Party. He is a member of the Board of Directors at the International Civil Liberties Alliance. His main political concern is the subversion of the right to freedom of expression. He holds an MA in Modern International Studies from Leeds University

19 Comments on How UKIP Can Win The 2015 Election Under First Past The Post

  1. Joe CUMMINS // June 5, 2014 at 9:58 am //

    Brilliant article! I can easily see that this can happen..what odds could Joe Public obtain at the bookies, for his vote?
    Just one point; I thought that the “real” reason for Mr Cameron delaying an In/Out EU vote until “by the end of November 2017” was that (I understand) in Nov. 2017 the full effect of the Lisborn Treaty will come into force, with the result that “leaving the EU State” without the full consents of ALL EU State countries, will become “illegal”! (Not much chance of THAT then? Very long odds indeed!)

  2. Simon Roberts // June 5, 2014 at 11:15 am //

    Excellent piece. I especially like your speculation on a national Labour/Tory pact, but do you think that those parties could survive such a measure?

    After all, the two parties get most of their support from the fact that they are not the other. Any such pact would remove the main reason for voting for them.

    I’m tempted to say that they wouldn’t be so stupid, but judging from the reactions we have seen since UKIP’s election success it seems that anything is possible.

  3. On the basis of the European and Local Election results there may well be constituencies in which it is possible to show that the election in 2015, in those constituencies, is a two-horse race between UKIP and one other party. In the Eastleigh by-election UKIP came a close second with the Tories in third place. A tactical vote squeeze on those remaining Tory voters would deliver Eastleigh to UKIP. The way to achieve this squeeze is to keep putting out leaflets to show voters that on the basis of the most recent vote, it is a two-horse race. Use bar graphs to show the relative vote for each party. Put this bar graph on every piece of literature which goes through people’s doors in those constituencies. If people see that UKIP have a realistic chance of winning they are more likely to vote for the UKIP candidate.

  4. Chris Knowles // June 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm //

    “After all, the two parties get most of their support from the fact that they are not the other. Any such pact would remove the main reason for voting for them.”

    That is exactly the point. UKIP increasingly puts them on the horns of a dilemma. If they do not cooperate with each other, UKIP would have a key role in government. If they do cooperate, they weaken their support base by exposing the fact that the establishment parties are effectively a single party with quite narrow set of principles.

  5. I disagree. I would suggest the opposite. In all the seats where we are challenger, which will probably be most of them if our vote holds up (the very fact that we get fewer seats where we have a majority means more where our vote is good enough for 2nd, point out that that is the case. In Labour seats Tories will strongly prefer us to Labour and will vote tactically. In Tory seats, Labour voters will feel the same. In LibDem ones nobody will vote LibDem but a lot might vote for the party that supports PR. I am not saying be dishonestly all things to all men as the LDs do but just point out the alternative we offer. But don’t try to tell Labour voters in a Tory area that the Tories are just like Labour – they might believe you.

  6. Yesterday’s by election showed that you are onto something here, Chris.
    The allegations abound that both Labour and LibDem voters voted tactically, to the detriment of their own party, to “keep UKIP out”.
    What more proof do we need that this is now indeed a two party system, namely UKIP v LibLabCon?

  7. Chris Knowles // June 7, 2014 at 9:55 am //

    Just so people are aware. The purpose of the article was not to predict outcomes. Rather, it was to suggest a a practical course of action to maximise UKIP’s chances; something that could be implemented a minimal cost. This should be something that is pursued in the background at the same time as the “Paddy Ashdown Strategy” suggested by Mr Farrage. It would assist that strategy while at the same time give candidates in the non-targeted seats a better chance.

    First Past the Post favours a two horse race. Therefore where ever possible in public statements this should be emphasised. This is done by:

    1) PUTTING FORWARD THE NOTION that the other three parties are effectively factions within a single party. If that can sink into the public imagination then we have a two horse race. One side in that race would have its influence split three ways.

    2) GIVING A NAME TO THIS triumverate or troika that with the aid of the media rules Britain. e.g. Refering to it as the Legacy Party, or the Establishment Party, with the legacy media as its propaganda arm. This name and the internal relationships should be repeated at every possible opportunity from now on.

    3) PUBLICISE EVIDENCE that supports the Establishment/Legacy Party thesis, e.g. the situation in Thurrock or the issue raised by colliemum above, and encourage activists to expose any similar instances of the establishment factions behaving like a single party.

    At the very least such a strategy would make coalitions against UKIP at the local level less likely and more costly. They would have a simple choice, give up on anti-UKIP alliances or be exposed as being part of a single establishment party.

    Win-Win outcome!

    • Brian OtridgeBrian Otridge // June 7, 2014 at 10:50 am //

      Chris, I do not think we need to invent a name for the “Establishment Party” as one exists already, in extremely rude health, on the comment pages of the online media:

      The LibLabCon party

      Some journalists have even started to use the term, so it is sticking – only the televisual medium resists. We should just keep plugging away at it, wherever possible using the term instead of the individual “parties”.

      And, have you noticed how we never hear the terms for sub-sections of the Labour and Conservative wings of LibLabCon? 1922 Committee, Militant Tendency, Wets, Drys etc. The only sub-section that ever gets mentioned is the supposed Eurosceptic element of the Tory wing.

  8. Chris Knowles // June 7, 2014 at 12:44 pm //

    “The LibLabCon party”

    Works for me Brian, does the job I suggest and you are right – just a case of continuing to plugging away and highlight the evidence of them as a single party. i.e. constant repetition of the message at every opportunity.

    Nigel Farage was on the right track when he referred to them as “legacy parties” though would have been better to refer to them as “legacy party” (i.e. singular) or “LibLabCon Party”. The key is that they are just one party. There are others also who already refer to the MSM as “legacy media”. This is best political practice.

  9. Mike Smith Gloucester // June 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm //

    I can just see the election poster – Nigel on one horse (a thoroughbred) – Cameron, Clegg & Milliband all on another (a hack).

  10. Brendan Robinson // June 7, 2014 at 10:33 pm //

    Very interesting article. I did feel slightly embarrassed as one of the many who felt I voted for change in ’97…oh well things can only get better… Cringe! I hope UKIP are able to translate popular support into actual results, as with so many things confidence is key, no one likes a loser, everyone likes to be on the winning team, if UKIP can be shown to represent a realistic or practical option more votes will come our way. I hope the upcoming manifesto is pragmatic, with no change for changes sake.

  11. Excellent.

    Given the joined up efforts across the media (that supposedly represents the seperate elements of the political spectrum) to portray UKIP as finished after Newark, it is time to think big, and talk big.

    I myself liken this by-election to the Littleborough and Saddleworth one of 1995 (the website link I have provided will take you to the page). This was when Blair was establishing Labour as the credble alternative government. The Lib Dems won the seat – and really maintained their role of protest vote recipient – but the big percentage point switch-over went to Labour (and not as many as are already going to UKIP in actual fact). It was the sign of things to come – people who had voted Tory would switch to Labour. It was just a question of the people seeing the one alternative to the other as being viable.

    You are right, therefore. UKIP must fix itself in the minds of the British public as the one alternative to all the rest – and a viable alternative at that. The UKIP leadership need to start using the term “LibLabCon” on BBC TV and explain what it means – i.e. whatever UKIP isn’t. At the moment they use the phrase “legacy parties”, because I suspect it is acceptable in chattering circles and the leadership doesn’t want to provoke derision from that direction by using terminology that the people have invented and use (perhaps I am being unfair). The important thing is that it still describes the Establishment in terms of a trinity, rather than a unity. UKIP needs to take all the language that the Establishment doesn’t want to hear to the Establishment and through the Establishment and set the perception agenda.

  12. Chris Knowles // June 9, 2014 at 8:50 am //

    “I did feel slightly embarrassed as one of the many who felt I voted for change in ’97”

    Don’t feel too bad Brendan. I didn’t just vote Labour in 1997, I was a Labour activist. I was Chair of my local branch as well as Chair of my local youth section. I suspect UKIP will take more votes from Labour than the Conservatives, especially in the north of England. Many people have already twigged that the LibLabCon establishment troika is effectively a single party and now vote accordingly. Now that emerging perception just needs to be reinforced and the message repeated and repeated over the next year.

  13. Why not the LiLaC party?

  14. Jamie Hollywood // June 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm //

    While this is true, another benefit for UKIP is that its support is spread evenly nationally. We just need to get past that breaking point, and we could win all over the country.

    Like what we saw in the Euro elections, we came second in most places, but as our vote was similar everywhere, and the other parties was not, we won nationally.

    I could easily see UKIP getting second highest share of the votes nationally, but still only winning a handful of seats. Unless we’ve hit that breaking point.

    • Brian OtridgeBrian Otridge // June 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm //

      I am afraid you are sadly misinformed in respect of the spread of UKIP votes, and you have swallowed propaganda from the MSM and “Legacy” parties.

      UKIP have both cold and hot spots. The main cold spots are London and Scotland, but these are balanced by some very hot spots, notably the East Coast from Grimsby to Kent and the Black Country, plus others.

      See my article here for an appreciation of where we are strongest and where we have a good chance of winning Westminster seats in May 2015

  15. Mike Munford // July 29, 2014 at 9:00 pm //

    This article raises some interesting questions. There already seems to be a tendency for the other parties to get together at the local government level to prevent UKIP from getting anywhere near power. This could very well happen at Westminster also. It wouldn’t be too difficult to persuade everybody of the need for a National Government. Any differences over policy would soon be suppressed in the interests of survival.

    This would make UKIP, along perhaps with a few honest Tories, the official Opposition. And that would raise the possibility of a UKIP government after the following election. Unfortunately that following election might be indefinitely postponed…

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