Will Ukip make great gains in the Wythenshawe & Sale East by-election next week? According to the latest polling from Lord Ashcroft, the party has increased its vote share by 12 points since the last general election but are far off from winning. Labour is still very much on track to hold the seat, given a 17-point increase in their vote share:
Although Ukip has increased its vote share fivefold since 2010, it looks unlikely at this stage that the party will sweep through and take the seat. Despite rumours of shipping in a team from London to run the short campaign, they don’t appear to have made much of a mark on the ground. Under half of those polled said they had received leaflets through the door, 12 per cent had seen posters or billboards and only six per cent have received a knock on the door from Ukip.
There’s also some interesting detail on why some of the people of Wythenshawe & Sale East are intending to vote Ukip. 90 per cent of those stated they are doing so as ‘a general protest to show I’m unhappy with all the main parties at the moment’. 78 per cent also stated they will vote Ukip as ‘a message that I’m unhappy with the party I usually support nationally’. This adds credence to the view that those voting Ukip are making a point about the state of our politics, not to decide who runs their country. This poses a problem for Farage and co in 2015 as that protest could well fade away by then.
As Lord Ashcroft points out in his analysis, a minority of voters in Wythenshawe & Sale East said they’d prefer Ed Miliband as Prime Minister — despite the significant increases in Labour and Ukip’s vote. Although by-elections are volatile and tend to focus on local issues, it would be surprising if some of the trends seen here don’t factor on a national stage in 15 months time.