Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne called for Conservatives to respect those who voted for the U.K. Independence Party, as a poll suggested opposition Labour lawmakers will win next year’s general election.
The poll of 26 marginal districts carried out by the Conservatives’ Michael Ashcroft showed Labour would lead by 12 points in a general election, garnering 41 percent of support, compared with 29 percent for the Tories. The poll, which comes after the May 22 local elections saw UKIP win 150 seats, also showed more than half of leader Nigel Farage’s supporters voted Conservative in 2010.
Osborne dismissed the possibility of a partnership with UKIP in a speech to the Conservative Home conference in London today, while urging members to show “respect too for those who cast their vote for another party, and that includes those who voted for UKIP on Thursday.”
The chancellor acknowledged that many Tory voters backed UKIP, which calls for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, in the local elections. Projections based on local results give Labour 31 percent of the national vote, the Tories 29 percent, UKIP 17 percent and the Liberal Democrats 13 percent. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership by 2017.
While the Conservative Party must “respond to the anger justifiably felt with answers,” Osborne said, “only two people can be prime minister after the next election,” either “David Cameron, who has answers to the anger you feel, or Ed Miliband.”
Ashcroft’s poll, which surveyed more than 26,000 people by telephone between March 31 and May 18, with at least 1,000 respondents in each of the 26 districts, showed that only 51 percent of voters who backed UKIP would still vote for the party in next May’s general election, with more than two-thirds favoring Cameron over Miliband as prime minister. Still, Labour would benefit from a 6.5 percent swing away from the Tories in an election, the poll showed.
The Conservatives must “listen to the legitimate concerns people have about our economy, about immigration and welfare, about our schools and about Europe,” Osborne said. “We need them to understand that the only way that referendum on the EU will be achieved is with the Conservatives in government.”
Governing parties usually fare poorly in British local elections, as voters use the polls to punish them. The Conservatives lost more than 200 seats and Labour gained more than 290, with figures in from most of the 161 councils across England. UKIP gained more than 150 seats.
‘UKIP Did Well’
“Even on the results yesterday, and I certainly don’t deny UKIP did well, UKIP would not have had members of Parliament,” while its leader doesn’t have “the right answers” for Britain’s future, Osborne said earlier today in an interview on the BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.
“On the day of the elections, Nigel Farage sent out an e-mail to voters saying ‘today is your free hit’ against the political establishment,” Osborne said. “There’s no free hit in a general election,” as “a vote for anyone other than the Conservatives is a vote for Miliband.”
The local elections coincided with U.K. voting for the European Parliament. The European figures won’t be released until 10 p.m. London time tomorrow to allow remaining European Union countries to finish balloting.