Since 19 September, the day after Scots decided to remain within the United Kingdom, both the polls and the press have reflected on the SNP surge across Scotland and the impact it will have on the Westminster elections, and indeed whether they could have a role in any future Government. Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond could very much hold sway for any negotiations come May.
Yet, a year ago, the insurgency we were talking about was not of the SNP, but of UKIP. As Nigel Farage’s gold and purple army stormed to take the most seats in the 2014 European elections, followed by two high-profiled defections by Conservatives Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, commentators suggested it would be UKIP who could hold key influence in the making up of the next Government. However, it all appears to have gone a bit quiet.
Cicero Elections was recently fortunate to host an event on behalf of Ladbrokes with several high-profile commentators. Matthew Shaddick, head of political odds at Ladbrokes, James Dennison, a visiting scholar from the European University Institute and an expert in the UK Green Party and Dr Matthew Goodwin, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, author of the Revolt on the Right, the political book of the year and the UK’s leading expert on the rise of UKIP. So what were their insights?
Matthew Shaddick at Ladbrokes, who hold odds across every Westminster seat, said the current odds show that if the election was held tomorrow we would see the following outcome:
Lib Dems: 31
Therefore a Labour minority government currently holds the shortest odds at 7/2, followed closely by a Conservative minority government at 4/1. Interestingly, a Labour/SNP coalition is placed at 6/1, something only a year ago they had a 100/1. Shaddick added that the biggest casualty was likely to be the current Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, who they only gave a 20 per cent chance of holding his seat in Inverness.
Goodwin said that UKIP’s key aim in this election was ensuring that Farage won his seat in Thanet South. The bookies give Farage a 66 per cent chance of winning. Goodwin said that this is highly likely because UKIP are placing their strongest campaigners in the constituency and have been campaigning since January, the Conservative’s candidate is particularly weak and perhaps most importantly, a House of Commons without Farage would have serious threats to the leadership. Goodwin said that he expects UKIP to take six seats at least, they being:
Rochester & Strood
Boston & Skegness
All these seats were held by Conservatives in 2010. Goodwin was keen to stress that there remain challenges within the leadership to manage expectations, UKIP members and supporters expect the party to be returning more than 20 MPs and indeed many believe Farage could become the Prime Minister. However, what is perhaps most interesting is the polling in seats where there is no strong UKIP association or targeting. Goodwin says that some seats, particularly in the North of England and in Labour heartlands, will likely see UKIP take 25 per cent of the vote, in spite of their low representation. The possibility of a defection from Labour to UKIP in the next Parliament may become all the likelier.
Finally, James Dennison said that in spite of the Green’s Natalie Bennett’s awkward interview with LBC last week, it will have little impact on the Green vote itself. He said that the Greens were far more concerned about ideals than policies and that interestingly, 50 per cent of the membership voted for the Lib Dems in the last election. He added though that we are unlikely to see any new faces come May. Caroline Lucas is 10 points ahead in the polls and should therefore be safe, he added that despite their campaigning, we probably won’t see Green MPs returning from Bristol West or Norwich South.
As this was a betting event, a few possible flutters were discussed. Finally, at 10/1 and with Goodwin’s insight, placing money on UKIP returning at least six MPs seemed like the bet of the day.