“We’re doing very, very well in Doncaster.”
That quote has gone relatively unnoticed in Nigel Farage’s otherwise well-reported interview with Jason Cowley in this week’s New Statesman.
Does Farage mean the party win Doncaster North, Ed Miliband’s seat? He goes on to talk of visiting “a working men’s club 200 yards from Miliband’s constituency office”, and how well-received he was there.
So what hope does the party have? This is how each party has fared in the seat – which Miliband won in 2005 – since 1983.
In 1997 Labour won 70 per cent in the seat. Since then their vote share has dropped at every election, with Miliband winning 47 per cent in 2010.
Labour of course lost votes nationally in those years, but the decline in Doncaster is slightly greater than in the rest of the country.
47 per cent is still high – it’s the kind of vote share Mark Reckless is expected to ride to victory next week in Rochester – but notice the rise of the right-wing parties.
We have grouped the vote shares of Ukip, the BNP and English Democrats. Collectively the three won nearly 17 per cent of the vote in Doncaster North in 2010.
It’s not unreasonable to expect Ukip to win much of that support in May. And given the party has built on no base in places like South Shields and Heywood & Middleton to challenge and nearly beat Labour, it’s possible that they could build significantly on that 17 per cent.
The Lib Dem vote was 15 per cent in 2010. It’s not clear how much of that much will turn into a protest vote (for Ukip) or a cushion for Miliband next year. But the number of Lib Dem to Lab defectors is falling, while the number being attracted by Ukip is rising. And in seats like Rochester the number is far higher than it is nationally.
Survation poll privately for Ukip. Perhaps Farage has seen a poll suggesting his party has a chance in the seat. Until Lord Ashcroft, or someone else, publishes a public poll, we will be left with forecasts. But Doncaster North is clearly one of the vulnerable Labour seats, and Ukip now appear to be targeting it.