Or will they be squeezed out in the Dave-Gord encounter?
The general view ahead of the June 2009 Euro elections was that the parties that would gain most from the expenses scandal, which dominated the headlines for the weeks beforehand, would be UKIP, the Greens and the BNP.
And so it was. UKIP easily beat Labour for second place in the national vote, the Greens had a good election while the BNP secured two seats at the EU parliament for the first time.
But can we assume the same for the general election – where there’s the first past the post voting system and where the battle will be framed by the media as the Dave and Gord show with a bit of exposure for Nick Clegg?
And unlike last June when the electoral system meant that voting for one of the others could increase their chances of getting a seat that’s only going to apply in two or three of the 650 Westminster battle-grounds.
For the harsh reality is that votes for the minor parties are almost certainly going to count for almost nothing on May 6th – if that is indeed the day. And if there’s little point in turning out then the chances are that electors will be more reluctant do so – expenses scandal or not.
Interestingly the PB/Angus Reid polls, which don’t weight by likelihood to vote, do put the following options to those who’ve expressed a party choice – “I will definitely vote for this party” or “I could change my mind before the election takes place“. Every survey that we have done has had supporters of the “others” responding that they are much less likely to opt for the former than Tory, Labour or Lib Dem supporters.
So my guess is that in spite of the expenses scandal the overall shares going to UKIP/GRN/BNP will not be that much greater than 2005. The big difference is that the best known figure in each of these parties is in with a fighting chance in Buckingham, Brighton Pavillion and Barking respectively – so one or more could see an MP elected for the first time. I’ve got money on Farage and Lucas.
There is likely to be a bigger focus on independent candidates which could in certain seats be talked up by the media. By polling day, however, the election will be seen as a sharp choice between the main parties in England with the addition of SNP/PC in Scotland and Wales.
There’s also the question of the impact of the scandal on turnout – which I’ll cover in a separate post.