Tag Archives: Conservatives

Tony Blair’s strategic move to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

Contrary to popular opinion, Tony Blair is not an idiot – idiots don’t win three general elections. Furthermore, Blair isn’t out of sync with the British people either. A classy manipulator, the former prime minister used his anti-Brexit speech not to orchestrate an uprising against Britain’s departure from the European Union, but to strike a blow closer to home.

Blair’s move is a bold and strategic effort to oust Labour leader and destructor Jeremy Corbyn, by dousing petrol on an already rip-roaring fire.

There’s no coincidence that he gave his high-profile whinge less than a week before two crunch by-elections – one in Copeland, the other in Stoke-on-Trent. The former went 62 percent for Leave while the latter chalked up a whopping 70 percent Brexit vote. Both are, at least for a few more days, Labour-held constituencies. If Blair has his way, neither will be come 24 February.

Why does Blair want Labour to lose? Because two by-election losses by a party in opposition would undoubtedly spell doom for their leader, especially as a Stoke-on-Trent Central defeat equates to a UK Independence Party and Paul Nuttall triumph. With UKIP promising to leech on Labour’s northern, working class vote, a Stoke win would knock the first brick from the wall.

Bookmakers have Copeland trending towards the Tories, while Labour are narrow favourites in Stoke following Nuttall’s Hillsborough gaffe, which is appropriately now old news. In 2015, the combined UKIP-Tory Stoke vote bested Labour, making a purple heist and a first home-grown UKIP parliamentary win realistic.

Blair has no stock as a positive influence – you’ll struggle to find a more loathed British politician, and he’s not blinded by narcissism enough to be unaware. However, being loathed brings a few benefits, not least Blair’s ability to be a negative influence.

With more than two decades’ experience in understanding and capitalising on the public’s psyche, Blair, like President Donald Trump, knows exactly what to say to get exactly what he wants. Give it a fortnight and no one will care what this political has-been said, but for the next few days it’s juicy content.

What better Brexit rallying cry than a detested ex-PM who wants to thwart the will of the British people? It’ll likely be even more effective in Stoke, since immigration concerns are invariably blamed on Blair and Labour. Brexiteers are already cashing in, their obvious narratives sure winners. We may even see a Blair piñata before the show’s over.

It’s unlikely there’d ever be an era suited to a Blair comeback, but you won’t find tougher than this anti-establishment one. But Labour rightly realise that Calamity Corbyn has to go, and anything which can bring that reality closer will be secretly cheered – there’s no way Corbyn critic Tristram Hunt wasn’t aware of the implications when he resigned from Stoke either.

For all the talk of a strong democracy having a strong opposition, the last thing Conservatives and Brexiteers need at this moment is Corbyn’s resignation. His haplessness gives Theresa May and her government the necessary breathing space – and huge polling lead – to handle the country’s trickiest negotiations in generations.

An effective opposition would be primed to cash in on perhaps inevitable Brexit fallout with their vision for the nation. Instead, Corbyn, a closet Brexiter who choked and campaigned to Remain, took months to try and establish his party’s position on the issue – not helped by a poorly-timed leadership contest – before leaving many incandescent after giving May a “blank cheque”.

For Labour, the party’s survival is much more important than backlash from Moany Tony’s speech – short-term pain for long-term gain. If Blair’s blathering compromises Labour next week, Corbyn could be out soon after, starting a difficult but not impossible search for a talented leader in a talentless party.

Brexiteers should hold off on the celebrations for now.

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Sleaford and North Hykeham: Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

It’s a stunning indictment of our current politics that UKIP finishing a poor second in a by-election is more noteworthy than Labour ending up in fourth. But that’s what happened in Sleaford and North Hykeham as the Conservatives cruised to a comfortable 40-point victory on a 37 percent turnout on Thursday night.

It was a nice win for the Tories, who secured a rare by-election triumph while in government, made even better by the disarray plaguing the rest. Their candidate, Caroline Johnson, was expected to be tested by UKIP’s Victoria Ayling in an area where 61 percent voted for Brexit, but the challenge failed to materialise with the latter managing a low 13.5 percent – a 2.2-percent decline on the party’s performance at the last general election.

UKIP will undoubtedly spin the result and celebrate jumping Labour, but it was a dire effort in a seat where they were hoping to at least run the Conservatives close. Opinion polls have had them holding firm between 10 and 15 percent despite a dreadful few months and the departure of Nigel Farage, but the steady support has yet to translate into electoral success, or even hints of it.

Without being on the ground it’s tough to ascertain exactly went wrong, but one constant is Ayling, who also failed to make an impact in Great Grimsby in 2015, a constituency UKIP firmly believed they could win – she ended up third, behind Labour and the Conservatives, albeit increasing the party’s vote share by almost 19 percent.

Stability finally seems to be coming to UKIP with Paul Nuttall’s election as leader, and the debate will undoubtedly shift back their way if the Brexit process is messy, but they have dropped the ball since 23 June, to the Tories’ delight.

More woe for Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has enjoyed some friendly elections since becoming Labour leader, from safe by-elections to the London mayoral election which was won by Sadiq Khan earlier this year. Such wins have emboldened Corbynites who believe their man is miscast and more popular than conventional wisdom says.

However, this vote, along with last week’s by-election in Richmond Park – where they failed to even save their deposit – should provide a shuddering reality check. In Sleaford and North Hykeham, candidate Jim Clarke tallied just 10.2 percent – a 7.1 percent slip on 2015 – and was fewer than 500 votes from being pushed into fifth by the Lincolnshire Independents.

Labour’s Brexit dilemma is worsened by the party’s rural-urban divide which threatens its electoral existence. With many Labour constituencies in the north supporting Britain’s succession from the European Union, and a leader who has historically been keener for it than Prime Minister Theresa May, there’s reason to believe they’d benefit from embracing it – at least that would give them somebody to speak for.

They certainly aren’t going to be the party for Remainers, as Richmond Park showed. The Liberal Democrats have their tanks on that ground, but their 11 percent on less-friendly territory suggests talk of their resurgence has been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, with Richmond Park voting 70 percent to Remain, it could be argued that the Lib Dems’ 49 percent in the by-election was below par.

A further test for Labour will come in Leigh should Andy Burnham win the Greater Manchester mayoral election. Nuttall is being touted to stand in the by-election, which will indicate whether the party really can bash Labour in their heartlands.

Tories cash in on rivals’ incompetence

May has repeatedly said Article 50 will be activated before the end of March 2017, so she and her party has until then before the waters start getting choppy – and they’re cashing in on it. Sleaford and North Hykeham was always set to be a good barometer on how Leavers felt the Brexit process was being handled, and 53 percent strikes as a solid approval.

It’s not all to the Tories’ credit, however. With their rivals looking decidedly hopeless, their job right now is hardly difficult. Despite having a narrow working majority in the Commons, they face no apparent danger from anywhere – not bad for a party that was supposed to tear itself to shreds over the referendum.

If there were any concerns for May, their easy win on Thursday should alleviate them. Christmas has come early for her and, with the abysmal state of the rest, gifts could be pouring in for a while yet.

Everyone is terrified, Vote Leave’s on fire

Things are not good. Just four days after Britain took its biggest post-war decision, a vote to leave the European Union, the country is indeed at breaking point – perhaps Nigel Farage was right. The consequences of Brexit were always going to be massive. The Remainers feared them and us Leavers were wary of them, but are least our new de facto leaders had a plan.

Or so we thought.

As of 28 June 2016, there is no plan to take the United Kingdom out of the EU. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would begin a two-year process to extricate the country, is yet to be invoked, despite David Cameron saying it would be immediately if a Leave vote was returned. After all, why should he “do the hard shit”? No reason, except for that bit where you said you would, Dave.

We are witness to an ill-prepared Vote Leave, who are suffering a pyrrhic victory, and a government digging its heels in to delay or deny the will of the British people. Westminster’s bigwigs evidently do not approve of the peasants’ revolt which has taken place. Tottenham MP and anti-democrat, Labour’s David Lammy, has already made the risible pledge to “stop this madness” and ignore the referendum result. Some much-needed comedic relief, at least.

Meanwhile, the rightfully forgotten Liberal Democrats (ha!) have confirmed that they will stand on a platform to flip the 52 percent off and keep Britain in the EU should they be in government – they won’t, but this is 2016 and nothing can be ruled out completely. Okay, perhaps this can. However, these two moves did neatly clarify that our issue with authoritarians does not begin and end in Brussels.

“But we have a parliamentary democracy! The referendum was only advisory!” cry the diminishing yet pesky Remainers in denial. That’s very true, parliament is under no legal obligation to follow through with the plebiscite. But it is also true that parliament should be representative of the electorate. It is now apparent that with 479 out of 650 MPs publicly voicing their support for remaining within the EU, that parliament is out of touch with the public on the biggest constitutional issue the country faces. For that reason alone, an imminent general election is required, with current and prospective MPs displaying their EU stance. But not before Article 50 – the slippery establishment cannot be allowed off the hook it’s taken decades to get them on.

Until the already notorious Article 50 is triggered, nothing happens. The UK remains a fully paid up member of a union which wants us out pronto. Once started, the process is irreversible, hence the delay. The official word is to strengthen Britain’s negotiations with the EU, but the murmurs from grandees of a second referendum, and the declared intention of some to ignore the nation’s choice means the electorate must be extra vigilant.

We are now seeing exactly why allowing the Conservatives to control both sides of the debate was a serious mistake. However much these careerists-turned-statesmen told you they cared, ultimately, party was always going to become before country. As far as they are concerned, finding a new leader and grabbing a stronger hold of the House of Commons is their priority – an easy task thanks to Labour’s implosion.

In fact, it’s not far-fetched to suggest Vote Leave’s virtual leader and part-time Eurosceptic Boris Johnson would have preferred a narrow loss, so not to damage himself and skirt this Brexit nuisance altogether.

To lead Britain out of the EU will be political suicide for whoever has to do it. The implications are undeniable. A period of economic trouble and the likely departure of Scotland from the union are two events no prime minister could survive. However, paying no heed to the 17.4 million who opted for Leave, or performing a stitch up which effectively sees us stay in is also unworkable.

Scotland’s second plea for independence was always going to happen, but leaving the economy teetering without stability was an avoidable scenario, had Johnson, Michael Gove and the other official Brexiteers decided on a destination for their ship.

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. So many promises were made from so many people – in truth, they probably had to be to form a winning coalition – that it’s impossible to deliver on all of them. The cake Johnson is after is not, and will likely never be on the menu. Staying in the single market, not contributing to the EU budget and ending free movement is a fantasy. If the EU did grant it, petrol would be added to the Eurosceptic fires roaring in France, the Netherlands and others. Thus, the end of “ever-closer union”. That won’t be in the #junckerplan.

It seems as if the likely Tory government would settle on Britain joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – the Norway model – if they cannot get the caveats they desire. Vote Leave representatives have already been keen to stick with the single market, while some are keen on the free movement of people continuing. The EEA may now the best hope now for economic stability, but there’s no denying that this isn’t the Brexit many Leave voters would have had in mind. The UK would remain in the single market and crucially, have to accept the free movement of people.

Such a move would be considered by many as another establishment betrayal and not what they voted for. Out was supposed to be out. If such a play was made, unprecedented discontent and a surge in support for UKIP would be inevitable. If disregarding the vote entirely is the worst course of action, politically, this would be a firm second. Our steeliest Eurosceptic Farage will push, and he’s been pretty successful doing that so far. In such an uncertain political climate, who knows what gains his party could make in the short and long-term future?

However, there’s no guarantee that Britain will even get EEA. Hath no fury like an EU scorned – we are not the most popular folk on the continent right now. That they refuse to even engage in informal discussions before Article 50 is invoked is proof enough of that.

Talk of an associate membership akin to Georgia’s has been mooted, while it’s not inconceivable that there will be no deal at all, if they really set out to punish us. To view it from their perspective, stopping other brewing dissent from manifesting into further referenda is a priority. They may think that giving the UK a raw deal is the best way to do that.

Brexit has plunged the country into the unknown – no surprise in itself. But the thoroughly incompetent Vote Leave clan has made things 10 times worse. They won, but refuse to “take control”. Don’t expect them to do so anytime soon either with the Tory leadership contest about to get into full swing.  Four days on, the British public has no idea what sort of Brexit to expect, if it can even expect one at all.

Leaving the European Union should be a time of hope and opportunity – Australia and New Zealand are already in search of a trade deal – but for now, we are plunging into the abyss that Project Fear predicted.

We need Brexit leadership, and fast.

Eurosceptic hope glimmers on a sad night for democracy

I’ve been a conservative for as long as I can remember. For much of that time I was a Conservative too – the two are now so intrinsically different. The former believes in low taxes and personal liberty while the latter would rather appeal to floating voters by rushing through gay marriage (an issue that could have been sorted in due course) instead of clearing the deficit and tackling the debt.

It filled me with no joy to see David Cameron, a man who has betrayed trust and broken promises waltz back in to 10 Downing Street under a party banner he has never shown much commitment to. The Polly Toynbees of this world may liken him to Thatcher but Dave is no Maggie. I’m not sure anyone really knows what he believes in, barring his out-and-proud fetish for the European Union.

We hear of cuts. But where have the cuts come? Foreign aid is still costing £1bn a month, our EU membership continues to rape the tax-payers wallet to the tune of £60m a day and the supposed bonfire of the quangos – something that was proposed first time around – has not come to fruition. While I support a limited welfare state I most certainly do not endorse cuts anywhere until these such measures have been taken first. And quite why the general public have not latched onto the concept that huge quantities of money could be saved here I have no answer. Such a strategy would surely leave more expenditure for the public services this country romanticises over?

But that will not happen. Cuts to the most vulnerable will be made without reducing the substantial tax burden significantly. Indeed, if the state stops providing then what reason do they have to take such rates of tax? None.

Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party chickened out of offering a libertarian alternative to the British people but I was desperately sad not to see him elected in South Thanet. A shoddy, but vitriolic campaign was fought against him and eventually the people of Kent succumbed to fear and lies. The Scottish National Party proved to be the Tories greatest weapon to claw voters back from the purple, while others were misled that Farage was either a banker, a racist or both.

Farage has championed the EU exit cause for two decades, the past few years has finally seen him, and his party, rise to national attention. Perhaps he should have contested the Eastleigh by-election in 2013. Perhaps the party should have pushed harder in the Heywood and Middleton by-election last year. And perhaps focus shouldn’t have been so intense on immigration. They have got things wrong, and a solitary seat would have shocked many considering the wave of momentum they held when Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless were returned to the green benches as UKIP MPs last autumn. But one seat for almost four million votes is not a true reflection of the party’s growth across the country. If we were in Sweden, we would currently be left either euphoric or in turmoil at the fact UKIP had become the third-largest party in the House of Commons, as the Sweden Democrats – their EU-allies – did in the Riksdag in 2014.

For now, Farage has stepped down as leader of the party. He may – and I hope sincerely that he does – have a significant role to play in UKIP and in a potential EU referendum over the coming parliament. No Eurosceptic can truly trust Cameron on the Brussels question. It is clear that he will never campaign to leave under any circumstances, like Blair, he is far too invested into it. Renegotiation on core issues such as freedom of movement are impossible, and a fudged question would not come as a shock either. While UKIP MPs cannot hold the PM’s “feet to the fire” his pro-exit backbenchers can and must. With such a slender majority another Major-esque “back me or sack me” play may come about; they have got to be prepared to sack him.

On electoral reform, UKIP and the Greens – the two biggest sufferers of First Past The Post – need to form an uncomfortable alliance, to exert pressure from Left and Right. Under Proportional Representation, the combined five million votes would have translated into over 100 seats. Instead, they were left with two. The insurgent parties must accept that reform has to be at the top of their respective agendas, for they cannot make any real impact without it.

That Cameron’s majority is so wafer-thin gives hope that the rebellious in is clan can cause him nightmares and leave him no option but to make Euroscepticism a part of party ideology once more. However, I, and the other four million who voted UKIP, were in search of something far more promising than that.

You’re a tax avoider? Let me buy you a pint

What’s that? You haven’t been paying your taxes? You haven’t been succumbing your hard-earned pennies to a government who think they know how to spend them better than you? Good for you, fancy a pint?

Tax avoidance is always a favourite for those seeking their daily dose of outrage, and one the socialists are never slow to sink their teeth into. Whether it be Starbucks, Apple or perhaps Gary Barlow, you can guarantee someone is plotting their trip to the gallows. If you want to find one, they can usually be located supping a cappuccino, pumping out some Take That, while tweeting live updates via their new iPhone 6.

I subscribe to a rather different view. Not only should we take guidance from those who have managed to coin it in over the years, but that we too should give the taxman an annual ‘up yours’.

Whenever you hear the phrase “government money”, substitute ‘government’ with ‘your’. Since that’s what it is. The government has no money of its own. Everything a country does is bankrolled by its people.

I’m sure most would agree it is far easier to spend money that isn’t yours. As a kid, money seemingly does grow on trees – it was so much easier then, wasn’t it? The government, however, resembles Peter Pan living in an orchard. Long in to adulthood, they are still merrily frittering away money in child-like fashion, without consideration for those who have worked tooth and nail to fund their obscene spending habits. The previous Labour government’s hapless computerisation plan for the NHS was scrapped in 2011, after it became clear the £11bn project was doomed to failure. Who picked up the tab? Not them.

Perhaps it would be slightly more stomachable if politicians actually represented our interests and spent the money accordingly – but they don’t. Take foreign aid. Research from the Institution of Development Studies in 2010 indicated 63 per cent of people supported a reduction in Britain’s foreign aid budget in an attempt to reduce the deficit. Moreover, much of Britain’s foreign aid is unaudited – we might as well cut out the middleman and give it directly to the corrupt despot. However, despite the public making their stance clear,  in December 2014 MPs voted with a 141 majority to ring-fence foreign aid at 0.7% of GDP –  a policy that has seen the country’s aid budget actually increase.

The Iraq war of 2003 is another poignant example. The final poll before Britain’s invasion in March of that year suggested only 26 per cent backed the government’s decision, one that resulted in an eventual financial cost of £8.4bn according to the Ministry of Defence – perhaps that could have paid for some nurses?

The more the state “plans” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual. – Friedrich Hayek

We all have personal grudges as well – whether it be the National Health Service, our European Union membership, or maybe a loathing of those drunk on their own benefits. It boils down to personal freedom. Why should people be forced to pay for something they don’t want? As the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek so succinctly put it: “The more the state “plans” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan’s article for CapX eloquently explained how the current system lends itself to tax avoidance. Indeed, it seems once again a case of mistaking the symptom for the ailment. Avoidance is the inevitable outcome if you attempt to punish someone for their prosperity. The only long-term solution is lower and flatter taxes.

wallet

Election soundbites more often than not involve unrealistic financial pledges which the public are expected to lap up. There will be plenty of them in the coming months. Just remember, you’ll be the one paying for them.

So whether it’s storing money on some palm-tree infested island thousands of miles away, or merely plonking it in an ISA in a bank down the High Street, no one is powerless to take one look at government spending and say “not in my name”.

Tax avoiders are just independent individuals or companies keen to protect themselves from politicians whose actions make taxation look more like thievery. Tax avoiders aren’t selfish, they just want to keep what is theirs. Is there anything wrong with that? You can do it too. In fact, we all should.

So, how about that pint?

Will the Farage barrage continue in 2015?

You either love him or hate him. I happen to love him, if you hadn’t already guessed. Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party offer the vision of a Britain outside of the European Union that doesn’t involve economic protectionism – unlike many of his anti-EU comrades on the continent.

UKIP’s rise in 2014 has been meteoric. It started with victory in May’s European elections, and culminated with two triumphant by-elections in Clacton and Rochester and Strood, as Conservative defectors Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless became the party’s first elected MPs in the House of Commons. They now regularly reach scores of 15% or higher in national opinion polls, and with a general election approaching, UKIP has the potential to secure a significant breakthrough. But will they?

The consensus of the Westminster politicos throughout the year was that the UKIP bubble would burst. Unfortunately for them, it hasn’t. The torrent of abuse that began when the prospect of victory in the European elections first became realistic, has continued without relent, yet it has had no effect. The swathes of purple voters across the land care not what Farage thinks about breastfeeding, nor whether some archived footage shows him wavering on his commitment to the National Health Service. They also see right through the efforts to twist his comments – the contortion of his remarks over female wages in the city springs to mind. From the strengthening poll numbers and the regular failure of media ambushes, we can conclude the now entrenched base of UKIP voters are extremely unlikely to switch their ballot allegiance in May. In fact, an increase in support seems far more likely than a collapse.

UKIP’s biggest barrier to making a major breakthrough in 2015 could be the electoral system. Despite recent success under the first-past-the-post format, the nuances of it don’t lend themselves to an insurgent party. Their support is thickening, but it is spread pretty evenly across the country – except in London, where they perform poorly. UKIP have not created their own heartlands yet. Therefore, they may achieve an array of strong seconds, but returning more than a handful of MPs to the green benches will be much tougher. Farage has already stated that their strategy – much like the Liberal Democrats in the past – will be to select seats they believe they can win, and bombard them with campaigning. A strong day and who knows? Possibly 20 seats and wielding the balance of power? It may seem unlikely now, but did you envisage UKIP winning a national election, and picking up two by-election scalps 12 months ago? Perhaps the first, but I most certainly did not foresee the second. However, a poor day – say anything fewer than five or 10 seats – and their Westminster position will remain one of irrelevance rather than influence.

“If we fail, then the party will pick someone better than me, but we won’t.” – Nigel Farage

Much will of course depend on the result in Thanet South – the Kent constituency where Farage is standing. A Lord Ashcroft poll in July gave him a slight advantage but another in November had him lagging 5% behind Conservative candidate – and former UKIP deputy leader – Craig Mackinlay. For all of the party’s progress, Farage is the undeniable lynch pin of their success. His resignation would seem certain if he doesn’t become an MP – in August he said: “If we fail, then the party will pick someone better than me, but we won’t.” His confidence in that quote undoubtedly stemmed from his knowledge of Carswell’s imminent defection, which came the very next day.

I am expecting a close battle in Thanet, but one which Farage will ultimately win. He has four months to get it right, and now the by-elections are out of the way, UKIP can put all hands on deck there in a way the other parties cannot – Labour and the Conservatives have bigger priorities than trying to prevent Farage’s election, as much as they might like to.

A strong manifesto is also essential. Misconceptions and a lack of clarity on policy have been major issues this year, and the incident which saw Patrick O’Flynn’s proposed “luxury tax” scrapped within 48 hours of his conference speech was an embarrassment. The NHS will be a key battleground, fears the party plan to privatise the health service have been rife, despite them being consistently rubbished. To woo floating voters a manifesto of conviction is paramount. Anything less and the media will waste no time in looking to ridicule.

Abandoning some libertarian ideology, UKIP has searched to exploit the disaffected old Labour vote, where they have gained considerable ground, as October’s Heywood and Middleton by-election showed – UKIP candidate John Bickley came within 600 votes of taking the seat. Pleasing voters from across the political spectrum is fiendishly difficult. UKIP’s tactic to play politics as a battle between Westminster and the people, over the more traditional Left vs Right has proven profitable so far, expect them to ply similar tactics in the coming campaign.

The third party often gets squeezed in a general election as the Lib Dems found out in 2010. Nick Clegg shone in the television debates while David Cameron and Gordon Brown bickered, but his party ended up with less MPs than in 2005.

But UKIP’s threat is much different. Discontent amongst the electorate is far higher now than it has been in my lifetime and whatever you think of Farage and his party, they are offering a clear alternative to the status quo. Those keen on leaving the EU and controlling immigration are unlikely to be swayed by the promises of the mainstream parties they deem to have deceived them once too often. I feel inclined to point out that whilst the two issues are intertwined, immigration is not the sole reason UKIP wish to leave the EU, as the media generally fail to recognise. Mind, it’s hardly surprising organisations such as the BBC don’t recognise them considering the EU’s history of bankrolling them!

Not a clairvoyant, I can’t predict what will happen in May. But what I have seen from this year is the divide between politicians and the public grow even wider. As a result, UKIP have swelled and solidified instead of whimpering away. If Labour and the Conservatives malaise continues in 2015, more of the same could be in order.

First-past-the-post has always been UKIP’s main obstacle – nearly a million votes at the last general election translated into zero seats. The two by-election triumphs have allowed them to proclaim: “If you vote UKIP, you get UKIP.” How they project that message will be key to the level of success they can achieve.

This political year has belonged to Nigel Farage – as The Times confirmed by awarding him Briton of the Year this week. Succeeding again will be tougher but if 2014 has taught anything it is to underestimate UKIP at your peril, for they have thrived on it. Strap in folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Miliband could be in trouble in Doncaster North

UPDATE: A recent correction from Lord Ashcroft showed Labour’s share of the vote in Doncaster North was actually 54%.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how best the Conservatives could tackle the Labour threat in the north of England. Quite simply, they should stand aside.

The latest round of constituency polling from Lord Ashcroft today rather eloquently proved my point, that very method could hit Labour where its hurts most – in Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat.

The Labour leader has failed to connect with many typically Labour voters and nowhere is that more apparent than in his own constituency. Today’s polling revealed whilst Miliband is leading on 40%, the UK Independence Party and the Tories are not without range, reaching 28% and 23% respectively.

Let us hypothesise. Imagine the Tories decided not to field a candidate and urged all of their voters to back a UKIP candidate. The combined figure between the two parties today tallied at 51%, which would be more than enough to unseat Miliband.

Conservative voters in the North must surely realise that whilst their own party has become something of a toxic brand and is of little threat to the Labour-dominated heartlands, the purple and yellow brigade is. The Heywood and Middleton by-election in October saw UKIP get to within 600 votes of snatching the seat.

If the Conservatives are realistic and make the bold decision to lose a battle to win the war, they may just be able to wreck Labour and Miliband’s aim of reaching Number 10.

Miliband’s failure to connect with his own voters could have devastating consequences.

FARAGE STRUGGLING IN THANET SOUTH

It wasn’t all good news for UKIP today though with an Ashcroft poll in Thanet South revealing party leader Nigel Farage is lagging five points behind the Conservative candidate.

Polling after the European Elections had Farage holding a narrow lead, but a lack of appearances in the constituency over recent months could be swaying voters away from the charismatic leader.

In Farage’s defence, he is the leader of a party which in the past three months has seen two Conservative MPs defect, force by-elections and duly reclaim their seats in the House of Commons. It has been a busy period.

Statistics also noted that 49% of Farage’s support in the Kent seat comes from previously non-voters, who are notoriously harder to get to the ballot box on election day.

It’s still far from a lost cause though with the margin very narrow. The Conservatives lead on 34%, UKIP are second with 29%, whilst Labour are trailing in third on 26%. UKIP will of course be plowing copious resources into Thanet South in the run up to next May, with the seat being a must-win for the party. It will be one worth keeping a very close eye on over the next few months.

CLEGG ALSO IN TROUBLE

Not much is going right for Nick Clegg these days and the Liberal Democrat leader has found his lead slashed to a mere three points in Ashcroft’sSheffield Hallam poll.

Clegg is narrowly ahead on 31% with Labour second on 28%. The Tories come next gathering 19% while UKIP and the Greens picked up 11% and 10% respectively.

If the Lib Dems are to bow out next May, their leader could well be going with them.