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How Ukip surge could gift Labour-held Midland seats to the Tories

How Ukip surge could gift Labour-held Midland seats to the Tories

🕔07.Oct 2014

Labour could lose seats in Birmingham and the West Midlands to the Conservatives at the 2015 General Election unless the party can counter a growing threat from Ukip, a left wing think tank has warned.

If enough Labour supporters switch sides and vote for Ukip the Tories could win by default in Edgbaston, Northfield, Dudley North, Walsall North, Walsall South and Telford, according to the Fabian Society.

The report ‘Revolt on the Left’ challenges the assumption among many Labour figures that Nigel Farage’s right wing party is likely to appeal chiefly to disgruntled Tories and lists 59 seats across the country where a surge in Ukip support could derail Labour’s hopes of winning.

It says that while a number of Conservative-held seats are clearly at risk from Ukip, Labour also faces the prospect of losing or failing to gain MPs in constituencies where the party’s vote is at risk of leaking to the anti-Europe party.

Ukip’s “powerful and effective narrative” around immigration and “welfare scroungers” resonates strongly with Labour’s traditional working class voters, according to the report’s authors.

The study warns: “Ukip poses a clear and present danger to Labour’s 2015 hopes and, left unchecked, could threaten to pull apart the party’s historic electoral coalition and challenge it in large swathes of its heartland territory.

“The Ukip narrative is that an elite class of politicians have sold out traditional British values leaving a culture of welfare scroungers and a tidal wave of immigrants stealing our jobs.

“Such populist rhetoric connects with the very real insecurities and pessimism of voters for whom uncertainty and decline are a fact of everyday life, and provide simple explanations for their worries.”

The report goes on to claim that Ukip’s case is strengthened because there is a “grain of truth” in the party’s arguments. Some Labour politicians did abuse their expenses, the party’s immigration policy had “unintended consequences” and more MPs do now come from an “elite pool”.

The study lists 16 “critical and very serious indirect threat seats” which Labour might lose to Conservatives as a result of Labour supporters switching to Ukip: Southampton Itchen, Great Grimsby, Walsall North, Plymouth Moor View, Telford, Dudley North, Halifax, Wolverhampton NE, Birmingham Edgbaston, Blackpool South, Walsall South, Leicester West, Nottingham South, Southampton Test, Birmingham Northfield, and Wakefield.

Birmingham Northfield is the Conservative’s number one target seat in Birmingham. Prospective Tory candidate Racheal Maclean hopes to topple Labour MP Richard Burden.

In Edgbaston, Tory prospective candidate Dr Luke Evans is up against Labour MP Gisela Stuart.

Dudley North is one of the most marginal seats in the Midlands, where Labour’s Ian Austin beat his Conservative opponent at the 2010 election by 649 votes.

The Fabian report identifies five “high-risk” seats under direct threat by Ukip, for both Labour and the Conservatives each. These are Labour-held Great Grimsby, Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View, Rother Valley, Rotherham and Conservative-held Clacton, South Thanet, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

Six “critical and very serious indirect threat seats” that the Conservatives might lose to Labour as a result of the Ukip threat are Warwickshire North, Cardiff North, Broxtowe, Stroud, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire and Pudsey

The study makes suggestions about ways in which Labour might address the Ukip threat: “Labour should stress a combination of cost of living issues with policies that speak to Ukip considerers’ core anxieties such as the introduction by Labour councils of residency requirements for council house waiting lists and curbs on welfare payments to families who live overseas.

“Beyond this, Labour should consider promoting more contribution in welfare, ring fence a large number of its proposed 200,000 new homes for local people and switch from EU free movement of labour, to fair movement of labour.

“Labour should cease using the top-down message of ‘Only Labour’ and embrace Ed Miliband’s more inclusive language of ‘Together we can’ to signal the shift from a Labour party that presumes to have all the answers to one that listens and works with voters.

“This should speak to Ukip considerers’ distrust of politicians’ promises through more inclusive language and politics.

“Labour should shift its campaigners’ efforts to community campaigning on local issues like pay day loan and betting shops, litter picks and night safety campaigns that reconnect Labour with the local community, demonstrate how change can happen and help restore trust in politics.

“Doorstep conversations with UKIP considerers should be longer with voters’ concerns genuinely listened to and repeat contacts made.

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