Immigration matters less in London but Ukip factor still counts

Ukip Bus 2

Nigel Farage and his Home Counties golf club saloon bar tendency won’t win a single Commons seat in the capital next month.

They won only 12 out of 1,850 at last year’s borough elections, and those were in places some people think are really part of Essex or Kent (including quite a lot of those who live in them). Farage has admitted that Ukip has its hands full cutting through in a city where 37% of inhabitants were born outside the UK. No wonder a chap can’t find a place there to park his Jag. Well, it’s commonsense...

As last night’s leaders’ debate underlined, Farage really has only one club in his bag and that’s to blame immigrants for everything. This limits his party’s appeal for a metropolitan population of which 54% think immigration has been good for the national economy compared with just 28% across the rest of the country, according to last year’s Social Attitudes survey. But that doesn’t mean our man downing a pint of Old Colonial in the 19th Hole is irrelevant inside the global city.

The polls show that immigration is less of a concern for London voters than it is for those everywhere else in the UK, but it’s still right up there: third on the list after the economy and the National Health Service according to a recent ComRes survey. The issue shows even housing, the hot London topic of the day, a clean pair of heels. In terms of Londoners’ voting intentions, Ukip itself is running third, a whisker ahead of or level with the Lib Dems and clear of the Greens. It’s only scoring 8% or 9% but that’s only a point or two less than in the UK as a whole, and those voters could make an important difference to how the two big parties fare.

London’s Conservative candidates are on course to suffer most. Unlike in, say, Rotherham, Ukip in the capital mostly appeals to people who supported the Tories in 2010: 12%, or roughly one in eight, of those Londoners who told ComRes they’ll vote for Farage’s party on May 7 voted Conservative last time, compared with almost none who went for Labour (see page 20 of the ComRes findings).

The detailed data points to why the Tories in London are more susceptible to Ukip. Twice as many Conservatives supporters than Labour ones - 45% compared to 21% - named immigration as an important factor in deciding who they’ll vote for (page 24). In addition, there are the usual findings about immigration being more of a concern for older voters than younger ones - Ukip draws most of its strength from the “grey vote” - and white ones (page 22).

It’s not an issue only for white voters in London: a notable 26% of those who said immigration was an important consideration for them were non-white, although, as a ComRes researcher pointed out, saying it’s important isn’t necessarily the same thing as wanting less of it. Whatever, it’s hard to imagine droves of the capital’s BAME electors embracing the Kippers. It’s the number of “natural” Tories who do so on polling day that will matter most. Every time Farage lands a blow on David Cameron, Labour in London gains.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Dave Hill, for theguardian.com on Friday 3rd April 2015 07.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010