UKIP have truly been the runaway success of the past two years. Nigel Farage has managed wall to wall media coverage and the party has boomed in the opinion polls, reaching up to 19 percentage points at the time Mark Reckless was re-elected as a UKIP MP in Rochester and Strood in November. The party even came first in the European election results of 2014. Yet despite all these victories, almost all the political pundits don’t believe they will gain more than a handful of seats at the 2015 General Election.
Yet in one seat in particular a UKIP gain looks a very real possibility. That is my home seat of Boston and Skegness. It has been named as one of UKIP’s top 12 target seats for 2015.
The party’s parliamentary candidate is the 22 year old councillor Robin Hunter-Clarke. If elected he will become the ‘baby’ of the House of Commons and the youngest MP since 1969. He has already served as a local and county councillor, after defecting to UKIP from the Tory party in 2012. All eyes will be on Hunter-Clarke on the night of 7th May as Boston and Skegness will be a crucial test of whether Nigel Farage’s promised political ‘earthquake’ amounts to a Westminster breakthrough.
A Shaky Tory Party
The UKIP threat certainly places the incumbent Conservative party in a very precarious position. In 2010 UKIP were 17,000 votes behind the elected Conservative MP Mark Simmonds. Indeed, the seat of Boston and Skegness has been Tory since its inception, in the year of the Labour landslide of 1997.
Things are very different in 2015 with Mark Simmonds standing down as an MP. The new Conservative candidate, Daily Telegraph journalist Matt Warman, faces a fierce battle in a seat which polls would suggest is too close to call. (The latest Lord Ashcroft poll put the Conservatives on 38% and UKIP on 35%.) Neither party has room for complacency in what is fast becoming a marginal seat.
Why Boston and Skegness?
So why has Boston and Skegness become fertile UKIP territory? Well the area certainly plays well to those core UKIP issues, immigration and the EU. The town of Boston has the highest proportion of Eastern Europeans anywhere in England. There is also the UKIP seaside trend in Skegness. UKIP won its first seat in Clacton-on-Sea last October, a town not too dissimilar to Skegness with high levels of seasonal employment and a large elderly population. 1 in 5 people in Boston and Skegness are over the age of 65 and it is the elderly that are the most UKIP-friendly voters. This was shown to be the case in 2013 when UKIP gained 16 seats on the Lincolnshire County Council. As such, Boston and Skegness is one of the few places in England where the UKIP vote is actually concentrated in one constituency.
I predict a victory for UKIP in Boston and Skegness in 2015. If they can’t win here, then where can they? The party couldn’t have more working in its favour than it does in Boston and Skegness.
Even if they don’t win this election, it will prove a strong footing for the party. UKIP are already anticipating coming second place in a hundred seats or more and being a key challenger in many close fought battles.
For UKIP, 2015 is a case of setting the groundwork and entrenching itself into constituencies for 2020. Boston and Skegness will be a critical test in whether UKIP can become the third party of British politics in the long term.
A New Marginal Seat
Whether we like it or not UKIP is here to stay and 2015 is a key staging post in that growth. UKIP have successfully exploited local concerns about immigration and created a divisive narrative in order to gain popular backing of their broader ambition to exit the EU.
Yet the party has done one thing for Boston and Skegness. It has put politics back on the agenda and Boston and Skegness back on the election map. Like so many safe seats across the country, Boston and Skegness had long been switched off from politics. Everyone knew who the winner was before the first vote was even cast. Now it has the attention of two political parties and can be described as a marginal seat. Politics matters again in Boston and Skegness and our vote counts!
BRIT POLITICS General Election 2015 Team – About Callum
I’m 22 and currently studying for an MSc in Public Policy at UCL, having completed a History BA in York.
I have a keen interest in politics and can’t wait to see all the twists and turns of the 2015 General Election.
I was fascinated with the close fought election of 2010, but 2015 looks more complicated and interesting than ever!
My home town is Skegness and I will be keeping a close eye on the constituency to see if UKIP are able to take the sea