The UKIP collapse: good news for the Tories, terrible for Labour

What, now, is the point of UKIP? Having achieved its life-long aim, is there any need for the party in a world where Theresa May is the Queen of the hard Brexit?

Voters appear to have made their minds up. The party’s poll rating is in freefall, the local election results were appalling. One UKIP member said May's election had put the coffin lid on the party, and June's would determine whether it would be nailed on.

High profile supporters have deserted them, the party appears to be in a state of perpetual civil war, and then there’s the king across the water — Nigel Farage — who maintains a public profile that makes it impossible for Paul Nuttall to appear anything other than a pale imitation.

On paper, UKIP ought to be in with a chance in Leave-dominated Thurrock, Hartlepool and Boston & Skegness, where Mr Nuttall will chance his arm again. Failure seems likely.

It's clear, both from the local elections and a run of opinion polls, that voters have deserted UKIP. The party may have been instrumental in delivering both the referendum and Brexit, but now most people want the Conservatives, not UKIP, to oversee delivery.

While UKIP may never have enjoyed significant success at Westminster, it's had a huge impact -- and will do so again on June 8th. The party won 3.8-million votes in 2015 -- and they have to go somewhere.

Polls suggest three-quarters of defecting UKIP voters are shifting to the Conservatives, including many former Labour supporters. And that could be enough to swing dozens of seats.

UKIP came second in 120 constituencies in 2015. Those held by the Tories are likely to become safer, but the 44 Labour-held seats are in the Conservatives' crosshairs.

Take Blackpool South, Labour for the last 20 years, but heavily in favour of leaving the EU. If just half the UKIP voters from two years ago switch to the Tories, they'll take the seat without Labour losing a single vote. 

In fact, a 50% defection rate would hand the Conservatives up to 30 Labour seats.

What, then, of the remaining UKIP loyalists? The party risks drifting back to the marginalised, angry rabble of the past. Shorn of their one reason to exist, they're struggling to find a clear purpose, rattling off controversial-sounding policies that grab headlines, but do nothing to suggest they're a serious political force.

UKIP has become a rag-tag of very angry people, who really shouldn’t be all that angry anymore, desperately looking for reasons to be angry.

PODCAST

NEW EPISODE EVERY WEEK