It’s one of the most discussed topics in UK politics, the threat that UKIP poses to Labour in the north of England. The idea is that if Labour don’t tack to the right on immigration then they will lose a large number of seats. It is possible that many Labour voters disagree with the party on immigration. However UKIP are strongest in Tory seats and tracing UKIP voters back to 2005 shows.
The 2015 General Election marked a surge in UKIP support at a Westminster election and the EU referendum showed that working class people and many traditionally Labour areas were strongly for Leave. This would make you think that Labour are about to lose a large number of seats to UKIP at the next election. Well, let’s compare Labour with other parties. Labour voters were roughly 65/35 for Remain, the Lib Dems 68/32 and the SNP 64/36. So Labour voters were the same as other centre-left parties within the typical sampling errors of polls. Hence we can say that current Labour voters aren’t significantly more eurosceptic (and thus vulnerable to switch to UKIP).
So are Labour as a party more vulnerable to UKIP in the seats they hold. Well, in a word no. Of the 8 seats where UKIP got over 30% of the vote only 2 are held by Labour (one is UKIP held, five are Tory seats). In fact UKIP came second in 75 Tory seats and only 44 Labour seats. UKIP tends to come second in seats which have larger than normal majorities so they are generally a long way off being competitive.
So Labour aren’t under huge threat from UKIP in the seats they are in, but do they need to regain a large number of UKIP voters who previously voted Labour? Well in 2015 fewer than one in 40 2010 Labour voters voted for UKIP, UKIP gained more votes from each of the Tories, the Lib Dems and other parties (i.e. the BNP). But could these be 2005 Labour voters that the party needs back? Well some may be but British Election Survey tracking of voters from 2005 shows that again the party that loses most voters to UKIP are the Tories.
So in summary, UKIP draw more votes from the Tories than Labour, are second in more Tory seats than Labour seats and Labour voters are no more eurosceptic than SNP voters.