Analysis: the big change in this election is UKIP’s dangerous rise

By Martin Smith and Tash Shifrin | 9 May 2015
Pic credit: Chris Beckett

Pic credit: Chris Beckett

There is a new political landscape in Britain and it is a very ugly one: David Cameron back in Downing Street with a majority government and, across the country, a livid purple racist scar.

UKIP has cemented its place as the new third party of British politics. The far right racist populist party has seen a fresh surge, this time in the more difficult terrain of parliamentary elections.

Thankfully, we are spared the sight of Nigel Farage MP. That is the one bright spark, and a credit to Stand Up to UKIP and other campaigners whose huge efforts in Thanet South were reflected in a higher turnout as people used their votes to keep the UKIP leader out.

But UKIP took not far off 4 million votes across the country: 3,881,129 according to the BBC’s final figures. That is 12.6% or one in every eight voters.

Add that to the 36.9% vote for the Tories and the total right wing vote is huge.

And, as local election results come through, it has emerged that UKIP has seized control of its first local authority – Thanet council – taking 33 of its 56 seats.

Now, as with other parts of Europe, frustration and anger at the mainstream parties and their austerity regimes is fuelling the rise of a racist populist party on the far right.

In Scotland, the SNP presented a credible pole of attraction to pull discontented voters to the left of Labour. In England and Wales UKIP has hoovered up the bitter and the betrayed.

UKIP has its MP, with Douglas Carswell holding the seat he won in last year’s Clacton byelection. Although UKIP had hoped for more, that is one up on the 2010 total. Indeed, the seat is the first the party has ever won at a general election.

A more accurate indicator of UKIP’s rise is that it has taken second place in 120 seats – up from precisely none at the last election.

This is a key part of UKIP’s “2020 Strategy” – getting the party lined up as a serious and credible opponent to both Tories and Labour in order to launch a far stronger challenge at the polls in 2020. By then, UKIP believes that the scale of the cuts and economic crisis will deepen the unpopularity of the mainstream parties. UKIP then hopes to capitalise on this.

Farage resigned as UKIP leader after failing to win his seat, but he is the party’s best-known figure, part of its brand, and there is every chance he will be back in charge by the autumn.

UKIP’s second places

We have identified 120 seats where UKIP came second and have compiled the voting figures here – scroll down for our full list.

It is worth noting that our list does not include seats where the party came third – although in a few of these it is a clear threat, as in Thurrock where it took 31.7% of the vote and just two percentage points separate the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP.

In some of its second places, the UKIP vote makes it a relatively close challenger to the winning party, while in others second place is a long way behind a landslide winner.

But these second places allow UKIP to present itself as the main credible opponent to the sitting MPs. A vote for UKIP in these seats no longer seems a wasted protest vote, but a viable means of unseating the discredited purveyors of austerity.

Geographical spread

UKIP has done well across a surprisingly wide geographical spread. The map below shows this clearly, with a noticeable UKIP vote in apparently unlikely areas such as parts of Wales.

There are two huge exceptions: London (aside from its Essex edges) and, of course, Scotland. It is easy to spot the locations of several other multicultural, multiracial cities – like London, they show up as islands of unpopularity on the UKIP map.

UKIP's vote: colour shows percentages from 0 (white) to 45 (purple). Source: the Guardian

UKIP’s vote: colour shows percentages from 0 (white) to 45 (purple). Source: the Guardian

Tory shires and Labour heartlands

UKIP has proved that it can make inroads both in traditional Conservative areas and in Labour heartlands too.

It has built on its existing presence in the Tory shires, where over the past couple of years it has gained substantial numbers of councillors at the local elections.

But Farage and UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall have also made great play of the party’s increasing popularity in northern, traditionally Labour constituencies – and the general election vote reflects this.

The table below shows UKIP’s top 20 second place results, coloured red or blue according to whether the seat was won by Labour or the Tories – there is an equal 10-10 split. (The full table of second places is at the end of this post.)

UKIP’s top 20 second places, by percentage of vote, compiled by Dream Deferred

Constituency% votenumber of votes
Boston and Skegness33.814,645
Thanet South32.416,026
Heywood and Middleton32.215,627
Rochester and Strood30.516,009
Dagenham and Rainham29.812,850
Rother Valley28.113,204
Basildon South and Thurrock East26.512,097
Thanet North25.712,097
Hornchurch and Upminster25.313,977
West Bromich West25.28,836
Wentworth and Dearne24.910,733
Sittingbourne and Sheppey24.812,257
Doncaster Central24.19,747
Bolton South East23.69,627
Barnsley East23.59045
Cambridgeshire North East23.511,605
Norfolk South West23.311,654

Where UKIP gets its vote

It is important to note that UKIP’s vote is not coming mainly from Labour voters, although it has won these in some areas: Farage took votes from Labour as well as the Tories and the Lib Dems in Thanet South, for example. But Labour’s vote went up slightly overall, despite its wipeout in Scotland.

The maps below show where UKIP has gained support (from any other party), with the length of the arrow corresponding to percentage points, and where Labour has lost support (to any other party). UKIP’s gains in support are spread far beyond Labour’s losses, which are mainly to the SNP in Scotland.

Source: the Guardian

Source: the Guardian

And a look at the Labour seats where UKIP is now second shows that in many Labour’s vote has gone up. That is important because it means that there is a solid core of Labour voters who reject UKIP as a racist rightwing party.

But it is UKIP that has benefited most from the suicide of the Lib Dems, whose collapse following their coalition with the Tories would otherwise have been much more enjoyable.

UKIP is now the repository for the votes of the “working class Tories” who have always existed even in Labour heartlands, and the populist party is the new home for many of the voters disaffected by both the two main parties, who previously opted for the Lib Dems.

Labour’s disaster – and its shame – is that after five years of Conservative-led austerity government it has done so little to grab the Lib Dems’ votes for itself or to pull away voters from the Tories.


And – key to its appeal in a climate of austerity – UKIP is a racist party, building on scapegoating of immigrants and Islamophobia just as far right racist populist parties and outright fascists have done across Europe.

Through the election campaign Farage ratcheted up his racist rhetoric, culminating in claims that EU moves to address the migrant boat crisis in the Mediterranean “could lead to half a million Islamic extremists coming to our countries and posing a direct threat to our civilisation”.

It should not be forgotten either that the fascist British National Party – now collapsed – had its electoral base in Yorkshire and Lancashire. The English Defence League’s fascist and racist street thugs focused on these areas in their turn. These are areas where Farage now trumpets UKIP’s successes as the new challenger to Labour.

There is no doubt that UKIP has scooped up the votes of those who backed the BNP at the last election – this has given it a useful base of five percent or so on which to build in a number of constituencies.

Last October, we looked at the Clacton and Heywood byelection results – when UKIP won the seat it has now held, and came within 600 votes of taking a second – and at how UKIP had made headway in formerly solid Labour towns like Doncaster. At the time, we said this:

The grim byelection results bring home again how far UKIP has come, and that socialists and anti-racists can’t afford to duck the arguments. UKIP’s stockbrokers and public schoolboys are not just targeting the better-off types in the leafy Tory shires – they want our people too.

And as we can see with the growth of racist populism – along with outright fascist parties – across Europe, UKIP is not merely a party of purple clowns. It is a real threat.

That is more true now. We will need to resist the attacks we know will come from David Cameron’s new government. But we also need to argue, over and over again, against the racist scapegoating of immigrants that fuels UKIP.

Full table of UKIP’s second places, compiled by Dream Deferred

Constituency% votenumber of votes
Arundel and South Downs14.48,154
Barnsley Central21.77941
Barnsley East23.59045
Basildon South and Thurrock East26.512,097
Bexhill and Battle18.410,170
Blackley and Broughton16.56,108
Blaenau Gwent17.95,677
Blyth Valley22.38,584
Bognor Regis and Littlehampton21.710,241
Bolton South East23.69,627
Boston and Skegness33.814,645
Bournemouth West18.57,745
Brentwood and Ongar16.88,724
Bridgewater and Somerset West19.210,437
Cambridgeshire North East23.511,605
Cambridgeshire North West20.112,275
Chesham and Amersham13.77,218
Clacton (1st)44.419,642
Dagenham and Rainham29.812,850
Devon Central13.27,171
Devon West and Torridge18.310,371
Doncaster Central24.19,747
Doncaster North22.68,928
Dorset North17.19,109
Epping Forest18.39,049
Faversham and Mid Kent188,243
Folkeston and Hythe22.812,526
Grantham and Stamford17.59,410
Hampshire East126,187
Hampshire North West14.78,109
Hereford and Herefordshire South16.87,954
Herefordshire North146,720
Heywood and Middleton32.215,627
Houghton and Sunderland South21.58,280
Hornchurch and Upminster25.313,977
Hull East22.47,861
Hull North16.35,762
Hull West and Hessle19.96,313
Isle of Wight21.214,888
Louth and Horncastle21.410,778
Liverpool Walton93,445
Liverpool West Derby8.53,475
Meon Valley14.87,665
Merthyr Tydfil18.76,106
New Forest East17.58,657
New Forest West16.57,816
Norfolk Mid199,930
Norfolk South West23.311,654
Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford21.39,785
Oldham West and Royton20.68,892
Rayleigh and Wickford22.311,858
Richmond (Yorks)15.28,194
Rochester and Strood30.516,009
Rother Valley28.113,204
Rutland and Melton15.98,678
Saffron Waldon13.87,935
Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough22.18,856
Sheffield Heeley17.47315
Sheffield South East21.99128
Sittingbourne and Sheppey24.812,257
South Holland and the Deepings21.810,736
South Shields227,975
Stoke on Trent Central22.67,041
Suffolk West21.710,700
Surrey East179,553
Surrey Heath14.37,778
Surrey South West9.95,643
Swansea East17.25,779
Thanet North25.712,097
Thanet South32.416,026
Tiverton and Honiton16.58,857
Tonbridge and Malling15.28,153
Uxbridge and South Ruislip14.26,346
Washington and Sunderland West19.67,321
Wentworth and Dearne24.910,733
West Bromich West25.28,836
Wiltshire South West17.59,030
Worcestershire Mid17.79,231
Worcestershire West14.47,764
Worthing West18.39,269





  1. Ben Cardwell said:

    I sometimes think I am lucky that I am not long for this world as it is changing out of recognition

    10 May 2015 at 9:03am
  2. Della Anverali said:

    i could never have dreamt that I would see such a disgusting party taking hold in the UK. If I was younger I would seriously consider leaving this country.

    10 May 2015 at 4:13pm

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