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Is UKIP a threat to Labour in 2015?

UKIP slashed a Labour majority from 5,971 in 2010 to 617 in Heywood and Middleton last month, setting the pundits claiming that UKIP could damage Labour’s vote at the general election. Could UKIP block a Labour majority in 2015?

UKIP has made big gains since 2010, with a breakthrough in the May 2014 EU elections where it got 27.5 per cent of the vote. But the capitalist media, along with Labour’s right wing, are hyping UKIP’s prospects, in a calculated bid to push Ed Miliband to the right.

This leaves Labour pandering to UKIP’s core racist vote, 74 per cent of which sees immigration as their key concern, twice the level of Tory voters. By contrast, polls consistently show the general population’s biggest concern is the NHS, with only 20 per cent naming immigration as their key concern.

Jobs, prices and wages – the “cost of living crisis” raised in Miliband’s speeches – are in third place with 17 per cent, and education fourth with 9 per cent. There is plenty of room to fight anti-immigrant racism while taking a strong stance on health, jobs, wages, and education. Why doesn’t Labour do that?

For the neoliberal thinking that dominates Labour, a commitment to Tory spending limits comes first. Shadowing Tory policies down the line, Labour tries to look “tougher” than the Tories on benefit claimants, and refuses to support workers on strike against pay freezes and pension cuts. But how can Labour afford to alienate so much of its working class base?

Quite simple, really. Labour strategists calculate that, so long as these supporters have no viable alternative to vote for, they’ll even stomach the racist lies and the scapegoating of migrant workers in order to sweep the Tories from office. If by so doing they poison working class communities with demagogy and race hate, then for Miliband and Ed Balls maybe that’s a price worth paying.

More than half of UKIP voters in the Euro elections previously voted Tory, and the marginals where UKIP could swing things are generally Tory seats where UKIP could split the right wing vote. The party only gained 3 per cent of the national vote in 2010 and no seats. Their own leaders only expect to get two or three seats next year.

Any damage to Labour will therefore be self-inflicted. Indeed, Labour has a massive advantage in a general election, particularly with the Tories in government. Socialists and trade unionists should call on Labour to stop pandering to the racist right and instead point the finger at those who really are to blame for the NHS crisis, the housing shortage and low wages: the bosses and the bankers.

 

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