There has been a much publicised problem of apathy within the ranks of the Labour Party of the threat UKIP pose to them. This assumption sees UKIP as simply a Conservative issue that will help hand marginal seats to the waiting Labour candidates. However that is to present UKIP as a predictable entity which can be relied on to behave in manner we are accustomed to. The assumption of many is that UKIP will have a reasonable to good showing in the General Election. However Labour cannot rely on a party that between May 2009 and May 2010 slumped to a poor 3%, outperformed by the BNP in a vast swathe of seats. Even though this is not the same UKIP, with the distinctly more popular Farage in charge, these are still untested waters for the party and the majority of their candidates. Polling since May has shown a marked decline in those intending to vote for them, meaning there influence over the General election might be less than was predicted in May.
Showings in by-elections and second order elections have been good but no election they have prospered in has had a turnout over 50%, even in council elections. A good example of their inexperienced struggles could appear through the far stricter scrutiny the electorate gives in general elections to their candidates than in second order elections. It is very easy for the more established parties to discredit UKIP candidates who, if history repeats itself, have not always been stain free and political stain removers are not always in abundance come general elections. The knives are already out with the story of the UKIP fundraiser having a previous life as brothel madame and dominatrix. Not exactly the type of news stories that Labour HQ are hoping will lead the disaffected right-wing brigade into the hands of UKIP. Labour must acknowledge that the effect of UKIP on the Conservatives will not have the same effect as SDP had on Labour in 1983 and 1987 and hand Labour victory like the SDP did for the Conservatives
The prediction of at least a solid showing by UKIP in a number of Lab-Con marginals is also ruined by the fact that their specific target seats are where they already have local representation. These do not correlate with much of the Labour target seats which mean a strong showing by UKIP is not assured because of funds and man power being directed to seats they could win. The presence of UKIP in many marginals could even lead to Labour not gaining a seat. For example in Great Yarmouth where a UKIP surge is predicted, it will help the Conservatives hold this seat. It can be safely assumed, that where UKIP target will see votes lost from all the major parties. With this in mind, UKIP targets should be of the highest concern for Labour, especially the Great Grimsby seat where a much loved Labour MP is retiring and UKIP made notable gains in the May local elections.
However Labour, in the process of shoring up their vote, should not play a Dutch auction (race to the bottom) with UKIP on immigration and Europe. Labour are already trying to sound tougher on immigration and welfare benefits than before but I believe this plays well into UKIP’s hands like the Farage vs Clegg debate played well for UKIP. UKIP are at its strongest when vagueness, hyperbole and sound-bites are at its strongest- which will probably be the entirety of its 2015 manifesto- so any party wanting to beat them only needs a coherent party line and their work is half done. Attempting to out-UKIP UKIP will not play well for any of the major parties.
Whatever the outcome of the General Election, Labour will struggle, in the future, in vast swathes of England if they do not tackle UKIP head-on at this election. This can only be achieved by neutralising and extinguishing their messages. To let UKIP wildfires to burn unabated will not just hurt the Conservatives but give UKIP a stronger platform for further success. Relying on UKIP in marginals is a route to disaster not a route to sensible government.