If Cameron does win the next election it is easy to imagine defections to UKIP - at least in the blogosphere - once he begins to make the compromises that become inevitable in power.The scale of the threat that UKIP now poses to the Conservatives has been revealed by researchers from the University of Leicester. In The UK Independence Party: analysing its candidates and supporters, Philip Lynch, Richard Whitaker and Gemma Loomes argue:
UKIP could also emerge as a threat to the Tories in Westminster by-elections.
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The advent of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition presents UKIP with an opportunity not only to persuade Eurosceptic Conservatives to lend UKIP their votes at the next European elections, but also to translate these strategic voters into committed UKIP supporters. Farage has positioned UKIP to challenge the Conservatives on a range of centre right policies and to exploit dissatisfaction with the main parties.A press release from the university quotes the researchers as saying:
Those who voted UKIP in 2009 but returned to the Conservatives at the general election may be disappointed by the dilution of Conservative Euroscepticism seen in the dropping of the manifesto commitment to repatriate powers from the EU and opposition to an in-out referendum.
If the Alternative Vote is used for Westminster election, UKIP would expect to gain first preference votes from those voters, primarily Conservatives, who support UKIP in European but not general elections, but would still fall short of winning a seat at Westminster.
"The 2014 European elections will give Eurosceptic Conservatives the chance to express dissatisfaction with the Tories for ditching their manifesto commitment to repatriate policies from Brussels and any perceived failure to oppose EU economic governance and rulings by the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights.Success for UKIP would also strengthen the position of Tory headbangers who argue that the Conservative Party would be more popular if only it were more right wing.
"But the advent of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition also gives UKIP the opportunity, in domestic elections, to exploit popular concerns about immigration and crime, as it appears to have done successfully in Barnsley Central and in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, where UKIP finished fourth.
"As a party that attracts protest votes, UKIP is well-positioned to benefit from those who might have given such a vote to the Lib Dems in the past but who no longer want to since the party has been in government. Those who dislike the BNP but are unhappy with the three biggest parties may also see UKIP as worthy of their protest vote."