England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance

Graeme Henderson, IPPR North, on UKIP’s success outside of London



Our latest post from one of Count Commentators, Graeme Henderson, IPPR North, looks at why UKIP have fared better outside of London.

UKIP as predicted have made significant gains across the country, yet as many commentators have already noted, not in London.

Our capital’s population is perhaps less receptive to UKIP’s lines that the EU and immigration are keeping Briton’s out of work. This is unsurprising with almost half of England’s net job increase over the last two years being jobs based in London. In fact, while an improvement in the jobs market has been a critical and pervasive issue throughout the UK since the financial crisis, for many Londoners concern has now turned to issues linked to a thriving economy such as an overheating housing market.

A key driver behind the surge in UKIP’s popularity is its positioning as anti-establishment. This resonates better outside London, where many feel unrepresented and ignored.

Part of the solution to this must be handing more power from Westminster and Whitehall to local areas. People already want councillors to have more responsibility for local services – a recent LGA poll found that more than eight times as many people trusted their local councillor most to make decisions about local services than MPs.

Westminster therefore needs to trust local politicians more, with less diktats from Whitehall and councils being responsible for raising more revenue locally. If London’s priorities are diverging in some respects from those in other parts of England, more decisions being taken locally is a sensible way forward.

The English regions also undoubtedly need stronger voices to fight their corner and to make sure they don’t get left behind. They for instance get less government spending on economic affairs and skills per person than London or the devolved nations – that very investment which helps spur on an economy.

While the increase in UKIP support will garner the headlines, turnout would appear to be down on 2009, the last time the local elections coincided with the European elections. As a result, there are still plenty of disenfranchised non-voters up for grabs. This no doubt fills Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems with both hope and trepidation.