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Immigration and welfare, not Europe, are the issues driving Tory defections to UKIP
Survey of 20,000 commissioned by former Tory vice chairman Lord AshcroftPoll suggests many Tory voters will return if Government delivers on welfare, immigration and the deficit
Lord Ashcroft warns promise of EU referendum will not stop increase in UKIP supportSays many voters view EU polls as seriously as the Eurovision Song Contest
07:56 GMT, 18 December 2012
More than one in ten Conservative voters at the last election now backs the anti-Brussels UK Independence Party, according to a poll commissioned by former Tory vice chairman Lord Ashcroft (pictured)
More than one in ten Conservative voters at the last election now backs the anti-Brussels UK Independence Party, but many will return to the fold if the Government delivers on immigration, welfare and the deficit, a poll suggests today.
Just a quarter of those considering voting UKIP name relations with Europe as one of the top three issues facing Britain, according to the survey commissioned by former Tory vice chairman Lord Ashcroft.
He warned that the promise of an EU referendum will not be enough to reverse an increase in support for UKIP.
The poll, based on interviews with more than 20,000 people, suggests that even among those voters who currently back UKIP, only seven per cent name resolving relations with Brussels as the single most important issue.
The survey finds the issue ranks behind economy growth, welfare, immigration and the deficit for this group of voters.
The poll suggests that UKIP will do ‘very well indeed’ in the European Parliament elections in 2014, after it finished in second place in 2009 with 16 per cent of the vote.
A string of recent polls has put UKIP ahead of the traditional third party, the Liberal Democrats.
But Lord Ashcroft said many voters viewed the EU polls as seriously as the Eurovision Song Contest.
He said: ‘These voters think Britain is changing for the worse. They are pessimistic, even fearful, and they want someone and something to blame. They do not think mainstream politicians are willing or able to keep their promises or change things for the better.
‘For voters attracted to UKIP, complaints about immigration or the EU are often part of a greater dissatisfaction with the way they see things going in Britain: They told us that schools can’t hold nativity plays any more; that you can’t fly a flag of St George any more; that you can’t call Christmas Christmas any more; that you won’t get social housing unless you’re an immigrant; and that you can’t speak up about these things because you’ll be called a racist – but the mainstream political parties, they believe, are too in thrall to the prevailing culture of political correctness to do anything about it.
‘For those drawn to it, UKIP’s primary attraction is that it will say things that need to be said but others are scared to say.’
Lord Ashcroft said many voters viewed the EU polls as seriously as the Eurovision Song Contest, which this year featured Irish pop twins Jedward (pictured)
Lord Ashcroft said a strong UKIP performance at the Euro elections in 18 months’ time should not be seen as a harbinger of ‘electoral doom’ for the Tories in a general election in 2015.
‘In our research people compared European elections to the Eurovision Song Contest; some cheerfully said that voting UKIP in these elections was just a way to “give Europe a slap”,’ he said.
In what will be seen as a warning to Lynton Crosby, who ran Michael Howard’s immigration-focused election campaign in 2005 and is expected to return as an adviser to Mr Cameron in the New Year, Lord Ashcroft insisted that the Conservatives should not employ ‘dog whistle’ tactics to try to win back support.
He said: ‘Ultimately, the battle between UKIP and the Conservatives is less about ideas, policies, or even values. It is a battle between the party of easy answers and the party of tough decisions,’ he added.
‘Those who want the latter need to be reassured that those decisions are right, and that they are bearing fruit.’