I got up in the middle of the night to come to Eastleigh on the first flight, before heading down the M3 in a Ukip liveried London taxi and it really got me thinking.
There's been a lot of rubbish written since the weekend, especially by Boris Johnson and other Tories claiming that a vote for Ukip is a vote for the Lib Dems. First of all, it's a sad indictment of our political system when people are being urged not to vote for the party that may best represent their views but to vote tactically. Democracies should be representative, and having a major party trumpet this as words of warning goes to show how detached they are from what should be the true mechanisms of politics. It also shows that they haven't done their homework and are seriously behind the curve. Only one third of the Ukip vote comes from disaffected Tories, drawing the rest of our support from the Lib Dems and Labour and people who haven't voted for years. We are an equally valid and viable party. I am sure that the Conservatives know that, giving them all the more reason to try to dissuade support.
The reason the Tory candidate is struggling is not because of Ukip. It's because Tory voters in Eastleigh are increasingly aware that the party is no longer what they purport to be. To all intents and purposes, David Cameron is a social democrat.
There have been several opinion polls published over the last few days, with estimates of Ukip's strength hovering at around 21% of the vote in Eastleigh, putting us firmly in the mix. But actually it's worth pointing out that the figures may be even better than that. Both Populus and Lord Ashcroft don't prompt Ukip during their research, meaning all the voter gets to pick from is Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative or 'other'. Only if the responder selects other are they then able to pick us out, from an identity parade of 11 different candidates. Worse still is the fact that undecided votes are then reallocated to the parties on the basis of the 2010 general election result. It's fair to say that Ukip has grown a lot since then. It is utter nonsense that the polling companies are behaving like the three political parties, desperate to maintain the status quo. Westminster is a closed shop and nobody else is to be allowed in.
I wrote yesterday how the lack of change and dynamism in government means the main parties have become utterly unaccountable to their voters. They pass the baton back and forth and spend more time trying to discredit the opposition than seeking to represent the issues the electorate are desperate to see discussed. It's vital that a voice like Ukip, which represents the majority view on a number of issues, from immigration to Europe, is allowed to contribute to the debate in Parliament.
If we work on the assumption that a prompt for Ukip makes a difference of 3%, for example, at the start of the campaign Ashcroft had us on 13% without a prompt, while Survation had us on 16 with a prompt, and then strip out the undecided voters reallocated back to 2010 results, then it's clear that the Ukip share would in reality be in the high twenties in terms of percentage of the vote. And what a significant difference that makes.
What they don't want to tell you is this. The horse on the rails has virtually caught the leaders. A vote for Ukip is a vote for Ukip.
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