Will we see a repeat of 2004-2005?
The detailed data from today’s Populus poll shows UKIP on a 7% share for the next general election and that the party is taking almost one on ten of those interviewed who voted Tory in 2005. This is a serious erosion of Tory support and could, if sustained, have a serious impact on Cameron’s dream of becoming Prime Minister of a majority government after the election.
But will the UKIP surge continue to have traction when memories of this month’s success start to fade. Will Farage’s party edge down to what they did at the 2005 election?
For five years ago there was much talk here of a “Tory meltdown” at the coming general election on the face of the UKIP threat. I argued strongly that this wouldn’t happen because general elections are of a very different nature with the broadcasting rules making it difficult for the anti-EU party to sustain its support.
During the formal campaign TV coverage is allocated in accordance with the number of PPBs each party gets. These, in turn, are allocated in such a way that parties without a history of performance in Westminster elections or MPs find it hard to get much of a look in.
The same, I believe, will happen again and although UKIP will be an ever-present irritant to the Tories on the margin it’s going to make little difference in terms of seats won.
Let’s look at what happened with Populus after the 2004 Euro election when the party made serious inroads and beat the Lib Dems for third place.
Euro Parliament election June 10 2004: : UKIP 16.2% Populus Westminster pollJuly 4 2004: : UKIP 6% Populus Westminster August 1: UKIP 5% Populus Westminster September 5th 2004: UKIP 2% General Election May 5 2005: UKIP 2.2%
Maybe they’ll get above 2.2% of the national vote – maybe. Maybe they’ll cause some Tory erosion in key marginals. But overall I think that the party general election impact will be minimal.