The UKIP Threat…To Labour?

Untapped Reserves: UKIP & The Traditional Labour Voter


As I’ve talked about previously, UKIP is a curious beast, yet from the outside we look rather one dimensional. The stereotypical UKIP member is a red cheeked, late middle aged blazer wearing Tory in a strop. They’ll be obsessed with Europe, morn the Empire, and be just a quick to hang a shoplifter as hunt a fox.

We know this is nonsense. UKIP has as many libertarians as it does social conservatives. The fastest rate of growth in the party is among the young, and for an increasing number, this author included, Europe is actually pretty low down the list of priorities.


That we need to change our image is self evident. But what do we change it to? Who’s our target market? From where do we need to recruit?

The knee jerk reaction is obvious; disaffected Tories. And it’s certainly true that much of our membership comes from the blue team. But in targeting the Thatcherites who’ve given up on Cameron and his Fluffy Conservatism, are we forsaking a vast swath of the electorate? I’m referring to Traditional Labour.


I was tempted to use the phrase Old Labour, but that has come to mean the Labour of the 1980’s, held hostage by militant Unions and run by an intellectual elite who were too busy fawning over the Soviet Union to see that the British electoral landscape was changing beneath their feet.

I’m talking about the Labour your grandparents knew, not the Labour your parents knew. Labour in the 1950’s and 60’s was a far cry from Blair and Kinnock. It was a Labour government that saw Britain acquire an independent nuclear deterrent. Labour had strong reservations about immigration, lest it push down the wage of the British worker. Some of the fiercest criticism of the Soviet Union came from Labour. Defence spending generally faired well under Labour. Labour originally opposed joining the Common Market. Law and Order was always a top priority, especially in working class areas. Grammar schools were supported by Labour, as were maintaining links with the Commonwealth.

….starting to see some common ground yet?

And this spirit is still alive. Hounslow, Salford, Stretford, Bolton; I’ve lived in Labour areas all my life, and the modern Labour Party have had no connection or resonance with my neighbours in any of these areas. And this isn’t just anecdotal evidence on my part, look at the numbers: UKIP’s best parliamentary election results haven’t come from the Conservative heartlands of Surrey or the Cotswolds; they’ve come from Wakefield, Burnley, Hartlepool and now Rochdale. Labour bastions.

Dozens of Labour ‘safe seats’ are only thought of as safe because they’ve never been challenged. Many working class people in these areas wouldn’t vote Conservative if you put a gun to their head. The brand is toxic, irrespective of how many baby seals Cameron saves. But as we’ve seen, given the chance and with a decent campaign, they will vote UKIP. They do so because they see in us what they used to see in Labour before the Islington Set took over; reward for hard work, patriotism, a strong defence, bobbies on the beat.


Young Independence can lead the way in this. Conservative Future never had a chance of making in-roads because they were/are a London Centric after-school club for rich kids. If you’re a young Tory and unlucky enough to live outside the M25 you are little more than leaflet fodder. Young Independence doesn’t operate like this. If we can continue to build up the regional organisations, especially in the university cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, UKIP will have a tremendous opportunity to make real gains in those areas. Many graduates stay in the cities in which they studied, they’ll have networks of friends and contacts and will be familiar with the area. You can’t parachute in local knowledge, however many friends they have at Party HQ.


People underestimate UKIP because they rely on a tired characterture of us. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that every Labour constituency is populated by Guardian reading students, knuckle dragging unionists and champagne socialists.

We’re a national party with a broad manifesto, Rochdale proved this. It would be a tragedy if we convinced ourselves we were just a Conservative Eretz, terrified to leave our Home Counties fortress.


  1. There will always be die-hards in every party who cannot even begin to contemplate changing their allegiance. They have a mind-set that is incapable of thinking outside the box.I like to think they are in a minority and that most of the electorate are not that intransigent. 2014 is not a foregone conclusion. A lot can happen before then. All the more reason to raise the media profile of UKIP to the highest level possible before then.

  2. I totally agree that the main sector for Ukip is the traditional labour voter. These are the ones who have directly suffered because of the traitorousolicies of the three main parties. Tory voters may feel upset at the way Britain has declined but the working class have genuinely suffered and still are. Ukip is the only way to get our country back!!!

  3. I,m not one of the young brigade quite the opposite.But i do fear for the youth of today, they are so dispondent with no future to look forward too.unless they wake up to reality and get rid of this draconian government.with the only tool they have THEIR VOTE.My opinion is there is only one man to give this country back its PRIDE that is Nigel Farage

  4. This document has some sensible points. I won’t deny that!
    However, I find the argument is on its head. While I like many others admire some of the qualities of bygone politics I have to say they are exactly that. Bygone! I.e In the past and if UKIP continues to dwell in the past then they will cease to gain enough seats to be recognized as a potential nation leading party.

    UKIP needs to modernize. Ukip needs to look forward to the 2020’s rather than back to the 1950’s. The way you can win over the support of Labour strong holds is exactly the same way you can win over the support of Tory strong holds! You need to do the one thing that both have failed to do. Connect with the electorate! Don’t chant the same old broken record of the EU to the voters. They already know and they are sick of hearing it.

    Rather listen to the voters than have them listen to you! Learn from the voters, hear their problems, their issues and their policies and do your best to deliver upon them. After all you are seeking a position in which you intend to serve them are you not?

  5. Absolutely right, Mr. Jenkins! I come from exactly the traditional Labour background you describe and I, too, have gravitated to UKIP. Blair, Mandelson etc. undermined my Labour loyalty. I was a member of the Conservative party for one year, then realised that Cameronian Toryism was getting the country nowhere. I think the British working class voter already shares UKIP’s values.

  6. Hit he nail on the head Lee Jenkins!
    From a grass root U.K.I.P. supporter for the last 9 years, who was once a been through the mill Staunch Labour, and then a conservative voter!

  7. The other focus should be dissaffected electorate who don’t vote. The 40-odd % who didnt vote in the last few elections…

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