The Tory peer Lord Ashcroft provoked high excitement in Ukip circles overnight with a teasing tweet suggesting the Faragistes could oust Labour leader Ed Miliband from his Doncaster North seat at the general election if they can persuade Tory supporters to voted tactically for Ukip.
Ashcroft tweeted: “Polling in Doncaster North shows Ukip 2nd. Tories vote for UKIP: Miliband loses”.
It was enthusiastically re-tweeeted by Ukip supporters, including party leader Nigel Farage who wrote: “This is brilliant! But what will Mr Cameron choose?” He then added: “So what's it going to be, Mr Cameron? Instruct your party to keep Miliband in?”
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Tim Montgomerie, the Times columnist and founder of the Conservative Home website which is financed by Lord Ashcroft, tweeted at the Tory peer: “You naughty boy.”
The possibility of the Labour leader and potential prime minister losing his seat is, of course, beyond sensational. It is also a very big ask.
While we wait for Lord Ashcroft’s precise polling figures – due this afternoon – it’s worth remembering that in 2010 Miliband had a majority of 10,909 over the Tories with Ukip in sixth place. Miliband’s share of the vote was 47 per cent of the vote, with the Tory candidate on 21 per cent and Ukip’s candidate getting just four per cent.
If Tories and Ukip supporters were to team up to oust Miliband, they’d need a new leader fast - because other recent polling still suggests that Labour will win the election, very possibly with a majority.
Under Labour Party rules, Miliband’s deputy, Harriet Harman, would take charge while an election for a new party leader was held.
Harman is not thought likely to want the job full-time, and neither is the popular favourite, Alan Johnson, who many were putting forward as the obvious choice when Miliband’s personal rating was at its nadir recently.
Currently, Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, or Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, look the most likely candidates.
Of course, all this comes with a health warning – not only is it pretty fanciful but it begs the question: would Tories want Labour to go into power with a more effective/popular leader? Many Conservative supporters might prefer to vote tactically to keep Miliband in his job, hoping that their predictions of a disastrous one-term Labour govermnment come true.
Also, tactical voting can work both ways. If Labour were to get wind of tactical voting against their leader in Doncaster North, they could turn up the heat on Nigel Farage in South Thanet.
The Kent seat Farage has chosen to fight next May is not a dead cert for Ukip by any means - especially if Labour and Lib Dem voters were to gang up with the Tories against him.
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