The Conservative party has never come third in a nationwide election. But as today’s YouGov poll in The Sun shows, they are on course to be beaten into third place by Ukip in the European elections:
Now, European elections are normally an after-thought in British politics. As even David Cameron admits, most of us can’t remember who our MEPs are and almost two-thirds of us don’t bother to vote for them. But as I say in the column this week, coming third behind Ukip will send the Tory party into a panic. In the weeks after the result, there’ll be calls for an electoral pact with Nigel Farage and his party, demands for a move to an explicitly ‘outist’ European policy and for a string of more distinctively right-wing policies.
The crucial question is how long this panic lasts. If it dominates the entire year, then it will deny Cameron the time and space he needs to make his general election case. But if the Tories regain their nerve quickly, then the improving economic news — after tax, median incomes are now rising faster than prices — gives them a chance to use 2014 to rein in Labour’s lead.