‘All mouth and no trousers?’ How many Conservative Party members voted for UKIP in 2015 – and why did they do so?

Published date01 November 2017
Date01 November 2017
2017, Vol. 37(4) 432 –444
© The Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/0263395717697344
‘All mouth and no trousers?’
How many Conservative Party
members voted for UKIP in
2015 – and why did they do so?
Paul Webb
University of Sussex, UK
Tim Bale and Monica Poletti
Queen Mary University of London, UK
A survey of ordinary members of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party carried out in 2013
revealed that nearly 30% of them would seriously consider voting for the country’s radical right
wing populist party (United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)). However, we show that at the
general election in 2015, only a very small proportion of them – around 5% of Tory grassroots
members – actually did so, driven it seems mainly by alienation from the leadership and David
Cameron in particular, as well as, perhaps, by concerns about the Conservative-led government’s
austerity policies. However, those party members who did eventually vote for UKIP were still
much more likely to have expressed a propensity to vote for it in 2013 than those who did not.
Since the Conservative Party has not experienced the same increase in membership as some of
its competitors, and since members are an important part of parties’ electoral campaigning, they
should avoid alienating those members they do have – something of which Theresa May appears
to be aware.
Conservative Party, party members, party membership, propensity to vote, UKIP
Received: 9th August 2016; Revised version received: 4th January 2017; Accepted: 16th January 2017
The 2015 general election saw the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), then led
by Nigel Farage, win over 4 million votes, although that impressive total secured it only
one seat in the Commons – that of Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton in Essex who
had defected from the Tories to UKIP just 7 months previously. Carswell, of course, was
Corresponding author:
Tim Bale, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS, UK.
Email: t.bale@qmul.ac.uk
697344POL0010.1177/0263395717697344PoliticsWebb et al.
Research Article

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