UKIP Surges Ahead of Governing Liberal Democrats in Survey

The U.K. Independence Party recorded its highest-ever poll rating, pushing the governing coalition partner Liberal Democrats into fourth place, according to a ComRes survey for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror.

Support for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party fell three points from last month to 28 percent, according to the survey. That’s 11 points behind the main opposition Labour Party, which dropped four points to 39 percent.

UKIP, which favors a withdrawal from the European Union, came in third with 14 percent, a six-point gain on November, while the Lib Dems fell one point to 9 percent. Unhappiness with the government, rather than opposition to Europe, appears to be driving UKIP’s support, according to ComRes Chairman Andrew Hawkins.

“There is good evidence that many UKIP voters are erstwhile Conservatives on the rebound. Large proportions are negative about David Cameron and George Osborne on the economy, and about Mr Cameron’s handling of gay marriage,” Hawkins said in an e-mailed statement. “Nineteen percent of the Conservatives’ 2010 voters say that they now intend to vote UKIP.”

Cameron’s announcement on Dec. 7 to press ahead with legislation allowing gay marriage, including in places of worship, helped drive UKIP’s support, Hawkins said. Some 46 percent of 2010 Conservative voters and 74 percent of UKIP supporters said Cameron is not “showing leadership” on gay marriage, the poll found.

Protest Party

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said UKIP is a party of protest and the Conservatives will need to to take it on before the next general election in 2015.

“Governments sometimes have to make some very difficult decisions and, mid-term, we would expect a party of opposition to be doing well in the polls,” Pickles said in an interview with Sky TV. “We need to get dug in and fight them on the ground on community issues.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson, a 4-1 favorite with bookmaker William Hill to be the next Conservative leader, said he would like to see a referendum on EU membership, though the government is unlikely to call one before 2015.

“I would like to campaign for a single market and withdrawl from all the nonsensical policies,” Johnson said in an interview with BBC TV’s Andrew Marr show today. “My preferred option is for us to stay in there” under renegotiated terms.

If the U.K. chooses to leave the EU because it can’t get the terms it wants “I don’t think that is necessarily the end of the world,” Johnson said.

ComRes surveyed 2,002 adults online from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14. No margin of error was given.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mike Harrison in London at mharrison5@bloomberg.net; Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dick Schumacher at dschumacher@bloomberg.net

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