Labour's UKIP decision reveals Farage fears

Labour's reaction to the latest UKIP stories floating around the press proves that the eurosceptic party is feared in equal measure by the big boys

Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 28 April 2013 11:03

UKIP is coming out fighting after finding themselves on the receiving end of a pretty brutal negative briefing effort from Conservative Party Headquarters (CCHQ), as revealed by The Commentator

I don’t buy the line that this is some below the belt smear campaign; after all, it’s not a smear if it’s true.

The truth is UKIP does have some unsavoury people running under its banner, it is just nigh on impossible with its current manpower, to field the number of candidates it wants to and vet them all adequately. When you play with the big boys though, you need to learn to take a slap.

What interests me about this story aren't the tweets of some obscure council candidates, or even that the Tories unbelievably left CCHQ tags on the briefing notes, as amusing as that is. It is Labour’s reaction that is most noteworthy.

Team Miliband had a big decision to make over their response to this story.

Option one: If Labour believed that UKIP splitting the right-wing vote was a truly crucial factor behind its poll lead, it could play the story down. Staying quiet or even having some fun at CCHQ’s expense would do UKIP a favour and help Farage’s men split the Tory vote next week, meaning a better result for Labour overall.

Option two: if Labour believed that UKIP’s capacity to win Labour votes outweighed the impact of the split to the right-wing vote, it could join the attacks, exacerbate Farage’s problem, and keep hold of some of those traditional red voters turning purple.

The most interesting thing about this story is that Labour has chosen option two, with attack dog Michael Dugher twisting the knife in the Sunday Mirror today and the Observer splashing on some mildly embarrassing internal UKIP emails. 

The calculation from Miliband’s inner circle is that the threat of UKIP taking away Labour votes is more electorally significant than UKIP splitting the Tory vote.

UKIP has long claimed that it actually damages Labour as much as the Tories. This is the first real evidence, indeed an admission from the Labour machine, that confirms this.

Labour has decided that UKIP is hurting it as much as Farage's party is hurting the Tories. That has very interesting implications for the run up to 2015. Implications we'll begin to see the effect of on Thursday.

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