POLITICS
07/05/2014 09:34 BST | Updated 07/05/2014 09:59 BST

Labour Shouldn't Worry Too Much About Ukip, Says Shadow Cabinet Minister

Ukip leader Nigel Farage during a TV interview after unveiling a new billboard poster in the run-up to the elections at Lambeth in south London.
John Stillwell/PA Wire
Ukip leader Nigel Farage during a TV interview after unveiling a new billboard poster in the run-up to the elections at Lambeth in south London.

Labour shouldn't worry too much about Ukip taking its votes at the next general election a shadow cabinet minister has said, despite warnings from senior colleagues and academics.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Angela Eagle also said victory for Nigel Farage in this month's European elections would not mean that much when it came to 2015.

"I’m not as worried as some might be about Ukip’s appeal to Labour voters," she said. "I do think it will be interesting to see how much of the Tory vote Ukip eat into though, particularly in those areas where they are contending in the South East and South West."

The shadow leader of the House of Commons, who is also chair of both Labour's National Policy Forum and National Executive Committee, added that she expected Ukip's support to fall away at the general election: "I don’t think you'll be able to extrapolate hugely form what happens in European parliament elections," she said.

"I think quite often the electorate see the European elections as a kind of place where they [voters] can do kicking of politicians, rather than voting for something positive because many people see the European parliament as a remote institution they don’t know a lot about."

In the full interview, Eagle also warned Labour it needs to produce the most "radical" manifesto in over twenty years, savaged the Lib Dems for inflicting "misery" on the country, said equality for women did not come "naturally" to David Cameron's Conservatives and that Ed Miliband was prepared for a "dirty campaign".

Farage has insisted Ed Miliband is vulnerable in the North of England to a Ukip surge and intends to target Labour seats at the 2015 general election. Ukip has also put a lot of effort and resources into the region for its European election campaign.

Jon Cruddas, Labour's policy coordinator, recently warned the party that Ukip had "its eye is on Labour’s English heartlands" and should not be ignored. He said that in the medium term Ukip had "the potential to be a significant threat to the Labour Party".

Lord Glasman, Miliband's former policy guru, has warned that Labour voters are defecting to Ukip because the party has become too "middle class".

And academics Rob Ford and Matthew Goodwin, the authors of Revolt on the Right, a in-depth study of the Ukip surge, said Labour should be concerned by their rise.

angela eagle

Angela Eagle said Labour should not worry too much about the surge in support for Ukip

In the interview with HuffPost, Eagle said Ukip were appealing to "non-voters" more than Labour supporters. "I think the Conservatives have a lot more to worry about, without being complacent, than we do," she said.

Last week former cabinet minister John Denham said Labour had made a "complete hash" of dealing with Ukip. Eagle agreed with Denham that it was a mistake to label Farage's party "racist" as one Labour MP had. "I wouldn’t do that. I just think you have to deal with their arguments head on," she said.

In recent days Labour has switched its line of attack on Ukip in an attempt to paint them as representing the worst bits of the Conservative Party.

Eagle said: "We have to tell our voters what Ukip actually really stand for, they would privatise the National Health Service. They think you should pay a charge to go see your GP. They are actually admirers of Thatcher, which in general with Labour voters doesn’t go down to well.

"Once we actually talk about what Ukip stand for rather than the fact its this sort of jolly looking bloke with a pint in his hand people begin to realise they can’t dally like that."

FULL INTERVIEW:Labour Must Make 'Radical' Offer To Voters In 2015