Nine months away from the General Election, we have a well-developed idea of the three main parties’ election strategies. However, for all the focus on polling and election gurus, very little is being said about UKIP’s election strategy.
Whilst many seem keen to dismiss the party as a disorganised, one-policy pony, UKIP have been watching polls and voting patterns keenly. As a result, they have developed a strategy around a dispersed support base and limited financial resources which could be devastatingly effective on the British political landscape in the short-term: UKIP aren’t aiming to do well in 2015, they just want to make sure that the Conservatives do badly.
Senior members of the UKIP leadership have said that the party has realised that if they are to become an effective force in domestic policy, the Conservatives’ dominance of the right-wing vote needs to be disrupted.
The strategy for affecting this change is to focus the party’s limited resources on key Tory marginal seats in the hope that they cost Cameron enough seats to secure Ed Miliband’s place in Downing Street.
UKIP has a plan and it could be devastatingly effective in the short-term:
They aren’t aiming to do well in 2015 – they just want to make sure that the Conservatives do badly.
The plan then depends on two events taking place: Firstly, Labour wins in 2015 and strengthens the UK’s ties with the EU and refuses to offer a referendum, thus further stirring euro-sceptic sentiment. Secondly, the defeated Conservatives appoint a new leader (Farage is hoping for Boris) who will be more open to striking a deal with UKIP.
Next, as the 2020 General Election approaches, Farage will make an offer to the now Conservative opposition leader: “We won’t contest the same marginals which we caused you to lose in 2015 if you pull back in Essex and Kent to give us seats.”
An agreement is reached and a Tory-UKIP government is swept into power on a wave of EU scepticism, with one of the first bills through parliament being a straight in/our referendum. UKIP will then spend the subsequent years extricating the UK from Brussels’ grasp.
As ambitious and high-risk as this strategy sounds, there is sense behind this strategy. Polls are suggesting that the next government will be Labour-led. Farage may gain a seat in 2015, but the Party does not have enough strongholds of concentrated voters in any region to establish a greater bridgehead in 2015, meaning that Farage will be marginalised in the next parliament anyway.
Therefore, they have surmised that resources should be focused on forcing the Conservatives into submission in 2020 through a series of electoral ambushes in marginal seats, and holing Cameron’s leadership below the waterline in the process.
This is disconcerting news for the Conservatives, who have been hammering the “vote UKIP, get Labour message to little effect.
UKIP’s strategy is both audacious and remarkably patient for a party not currently renowned for its strategic nous. It has the potential to be a game-changer in 2015, but also to impact the landscape of right-wing British politics over the next five years. Just don’t tell Tory voters in Essex or Kent…