UKIP will take votes from Labour as well as the Tories in Rotherham today

by Peter Watt

There is one aspect of the UKIP Rotherham storm that I have found intriguing and that has, for the most part, passed largely without comment: the foster carers who were at the heart of the story were former Labour voters.

And yet this on the face of it belies the presumption that UKIP is a problem for the Tories.  Psephologically speaking of course, it does seem that for the time being at least UKIP has taken voters from the Tories.

It is why Michael Fabricant MP said the unsayable this week by talking of Conservative electoral pacts with UKIP.  But psephology alone is surely only half the story because scratch the surface of the assumptions about UKIP and there are some others bout who votes UKIP and why.

One of the main issues is that those of us who suffer from an obsession with politics still tend to see politics on a linear ‘left-right’ spectrum. This means that we could sit in a bar and quite quickly group policies as “left” or “right” with a high degree of consensus amongst ourselves.

So broadly, parties on the left are in favour of bigger government and those on the right smaller government.  Parties on the left are in favour of the state directly delivering help to the poor and those on the right are more supportive of community and self-help options.  And so on; and depending which party you are from would depend as to whether the broadly left approach or broadly right approach was seen as a positive or not.

Even though in reality we know that it isn’t in fact this simple, it is a stereotype that we instinctively feel is broadly right.  And we think this because it complies with our worldview as Labour activists.  And the same would be true for political activists generally.

It means that we can therefore all understand that a right wing Tory voter might be persuaded to vote for UKIP.  After all, they are tougher on immigration and Europe than the Tories, both of which are classic right wing issues.  On this basis UKIP is clearly on the right and also to the right of the Tories.   Labour would see this as proof positive of all that is bad about the “nasty Tories”,  Whilst Tories would see this as a failure of their leadership to be sufficiently Tory and of the liberal left allowing uncontrolled immigration and surrendering national powers to Europe.

In other words, on the basis of our views of the political spectrum we ascribe an assumed series of world views to those who vote for the respective parties. So those who vote Labour are more socially liberal, worry less about crime and so on.  Whilst those who vote Tory are more disciplinarian and think that we should be tougher on welfare claimants.   It is how the political game is played isn’t it?

But it is lazy and very often wrong.  It means that we make some dangerous assumptions that make us feel better but not necessarily voters. For instance, anecdotally many of us will have stories of lifelong Labour voters that we have met on the doorstep that have expressed some pretty strong views about “foreigners” that have made us wince.

I remember meeting a Labour councillor who was working on a by-election a few years ago who spent an hour telling me about how all the jobs locally had gone to the Pakis who didn’t have the same standards as us whites.  So racism certainly isn’t confined to the ranks of other parties!

Lord Ashcroft recently published another in his series of fascinating polls looking at the views of voters to the main parties.  In “Project Red Alert’” he looks at Labour.  It is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.  Essentially he looks at Labour voters as:

  • “Loyalists” who represent 25% of all voter.  They  voted Labour in 20120 and will do so in 2015;
  • “Joiners” who represent 17% of all voters.  They are currently Labour but who didn’t vote Labour in 2010;
  • “Considerers” who represent 10% of all voters.  They are not currently Labour but say that they could be persuaded.

One of the really fascinating insights is the extent to which voters see certain issues.  When asked which party would have the best approach to “ensuring that people are treated fairly”, 92% of loyalists said Labour and only 2% said Conservatives.  No surprise there.

But when asked about “reforming welfare to stop scroungers and cut dependency 34% of Loyalists say that the Conservatives have the best approach.   What about “controlling Immigration?”  Well 26% of loyalists again say the Conservatives.    “Dealing with Crime,” its 16% and “defending Britain’s interests in Europe” its 19%.

Incidentally, on “cutting the deficit and the debt” 26% of Labour loyalists say the Conservatives have the best approach!

So on some issues, voters do not seem to be complying with our world view of how politics is played out.  On the contrary, significant numbers of Labour voters, loyal Labour voters no less, perceive that the Tories have the best approach on immigration, welfare reform, crime and Europe.  And what is more, the figures go up for joiners and considerers.  So for instance, 33% of joiners think that the Conservatives have the best approach on immigration as do 44% of considerers.

So the assumption that UKIP is just a threat to the Tories is dangerous and the fact that the Rotherham foster-carers were former Labour voters is not really a surprise.

The quicker we wake up to the fact that most voters are not like people who attend Labour party meetings the better.  Some of them even read the Daily Mail.

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party

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17 Responses to “UKIP will take votes from Labour as well as the Tories in Rotherham today”

  1. PlatoSays says:

    Great spot and another sound article – let’s see if anyone notices or rubbishes it as wrong because Labour voters can’t possibly agree with Evil Tories!

  2. swatantra says:

    Peter is absolutely right, as usual.
    Its that 80 : 20 thing again. 80 % of the people out there haven’t a clue about anything. The complexion of a Govt makes abosolutely no difference to them they’ll whinge about everything and everyone. They live for they day and don’t plan for the future. To them politicians are all the same. And you won’t get any thanks from them just because Labour says it is the Party of the workers or the poor and vulnerable or the dispossessed.
    Some of them haven’t voted ever in their lives; some even haven’t a clue about how to vote, or what a postal vote is; a lot can’t be bothered. They’ve got more important things going on in their lives than to put an X on a piece of paper, like football or the pub or Corrie.
    Even Labour has its share of bigots in the Party as Peter points out; some will vote Labour because its a habit, others may be pulled in the direction of the UKIP or the facists and racists.
    Labour activists probably only form 10% and have a clear agenda as to why they are activists. It all makes you wonder why we all bother. I think it may be because we want to create a better society and world. But that concept it pretty meaningless to the 80%

  3. roy says:

    Whilst you are all fretting over the Rotherham election result tens if not hundreds of thousands of Rumanians and Bulgarians are busy booking their tickets to the UK in 2013. Where they will be instantly entitled to FREE health care , education housing benefit family allowance and unemployment benefits all paid for by you the tax payer.
    So think before you vote LIBLABCON why you should pay for all this and consider voting UKIP

  4. Ken says:

    Two points need to be made to start off with:

    1. I had only ever voted Labour or the old CPGB as a protest when Callaghan got on my nerves too much. That was until I voted UKIP in 2010 and I am now a party member.

    2. If you believe in high immigration then you also believe in keeping the wages down.

    The two are connected. You do not have to be a Marxist to agree with the notion that the employer wants a reserve army of unemployed to keep wage rates down. That reserve army was boosted by New Labour who said before they took office in 1997 that previous Labour governments had been destroyed by high wage settlements and that was not going to happen to them.

    So they allowed all and sundry into the country, especially the eastern Europeans who had sat on their hands and refused to defend socialism in their own counties and then flooded over to ours to keep out wages down.

  5. Gareth says:

    But Peter – its the Blairites like your goodself that say Labour should be in with Europe.
    Some of the Lefties with a sceptical view on Europe are able to reach out to these former Labour voters who back UKIP. But then the former dear leader and his supporters go and slate them. How do you square that circle. Just be more rightwing and talk tougher on immigration?

  6. Godfrey says:

    It’s amazing that this bleeding obvious point needs to be made to Labour party members.

    The idea that

    anti-EU = racist = BNP = Tory

    Is bollocks, and always has been.

    The BNP takes more votes from Labour than from the Tories.

    Ordinary working class Labour supporters are not, and never have been, massive fans of the EU. And they are the people who suffer most from unlimited immigration from eastern Europe. So why would anyone but a complete idiot assume that former Labour voters would not be inclined to switch to UKIP?

  7. Godfrey says:

    “2. If you believe in high immigration then you also believe in keeping the wages down.”

    Ken, has the possibility never occurred to you that someone might be in favour of people being free to move around to find work because:

    a) On balance, it is economically beneficial, and
    b) because freedom and liberty are intrinsically good things


    That maybe everything is not predicated on evil rich people wanting to oppress the poor?

    No, of course not. You are a socialist so of course you are incapable of seeing any other point of view.

  8. sackcloth and ashes says:

    I can’t let this comment go – ‘especially the eastern Europeans who had sat on their hands and refused to defend socialism in their own counties (sic)’.

    Ken, when were you born? Have you seen what ‘socialism’ meant in Eastern Europe? Have you heard of the Stasi, Securitate and the StB? Can you compare the state of Poland economically today with where it was thirty years ago? Are you one of these old fashioned tankies who takes Brecht’s words below unironically, and wishes that the wall was back up?

    ‘Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?’

    On topic, Peter’s article is spot-on. Labour needs to take UKIP seriously as the party more likely than RESPECT to outbid it for support amongst working class voters – particularly after the stupidity of Rotherham Council re: the foster children. A starting point would be to highlight the UKIP manifesto and point out that it is an unattainable and uncosted wish-list.

  9. Robert Eve says:

    UKIP to do well.

    What’s not to like!!

  10. paul barker says:

    Another thoughtful article but just compare it with the blinkered, obsessive class-hate of the article above it.
    Incidentally @Peter Watt, did you do anything about the labour councillor you mentioned ? Try to get him deselected say ?

  11. James102 says:

    What is needed is a few years in one of our universities, that will knock any ability to question the political consensus out of them.
    Education, education, re-education…that is the answer.

  12. keith says:

    That Labour’s support is disintegrating with membership plummeting because after 13 years of the disastrous Blair Brown years, they no longer know what they stand for any more. Labour’s desperation is evident from the fact that the candidate is not even a member of the party.

    Labour needs to embark upon a genuine policy review and try to honestly engage with the electorate again. There is little chance of that happening however, because they have become addicted to spin and in doing so would have to recognise the many appalling mistakes made during the New Labour years. Furthermore, they have probably calculated that they may win the election with a diminishing turnout.

  13. Andrew Smith says:

    The left-right axis has not been an adequate measure of opinion for decades; surely Labour people don’t still use it, do you?

    Perhaps that is why you so misread the BNP – describing it as extreme right wing when it picked up almost all its votes and council seats in formerly strong Labour areas, where the people have become fed up with being taken for granted and unrepresented for years.

    The idea that leaving the EU is “right wing” is also very odd. It used to be thought that only left wing, even communist groups demanded independence in the Empire/Commonwealth. Turns out people from all sorts of backgrounds want independence and accountable, democratic government. Not going to get that in Rotherham any time soon, are we?

  14. Sungei Patani says:


    “80 % of the people out there haven’t a clue about anything.” Typical socialist contempt for his fellow men.

  15. Alister says:

    If a lot of the non-labour voters vote tactically, as I would, I can see a massive swing to UKIP, now if the labour vote having been taken for greanted for all these years does what Mrs Duffy did and not vote then it could be a close vote. I for one would be glad to see that, for it would stop the labour party’s front bench screaming racist/you’re playing the race card at anyone who mentions immigration.

    The Vast majority of the British public aren’t anti immigration, but are are anti uncontrolled immigration especially when combined with segregation/not integrating. People who have lived here for 10 years plus who don’t speak English, yet expect me to pay to have the benefit forms translated or refer to retiring “back home in…” or when you walk down a street and hear no english spoken, that’s not integrating

    Huguenots came in massive numbers (about 1% of the population) and integrated they changed their names, they learned English, they adapted to c of e. They integrated so fully that we can not tell them apart now

  16. Mike says:

    Remember that Labour in 1983 advocated for withdrawal from the EEC as it was then. Michael Foot was not a fascist and if anything the EU has become more “capitalistic” since then with the Single Market, Euro etc all occurring after 1983.

    UKIP will take from both Tory and Labour. It will initially cause more pain for the Tories but if it ever overtook the Conservatives (the Liberals in 1910 never expected to get relegated to minor party status) then Labour would be in trouble.

  17. Mike Homfray says:

    Appears that UKIP took largely the working class Tory vote, incidentally, the BNP tended to do the same. In areas they did well, the Tory vote collapsed and often the wards they won in Labour areas were not our strongest.

    We can’t pander to UKIP’s politics. When they actually come up with a reasonable alternative to the EU I’ll start listening, buit they haven’t actually got one other than wish lists of continuing to trade on advantageous terms and selling things to the Chinese and Indians

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