Middle England rose up on polling day and said: ‘Enough’

Nigel Farage's Ukip and David Cameron's Tories got 49.5 per cent of the UK vote, and 55.1 per cent of the English vote, which may have been partly a reaction to the success of Nicola Sturgeon's SNP
Nigel Farage's Ukip and David Cameron's Tories got 49.5 per cent of the UK vote, and 55.1 per cent of the English vote, which may have been partly a reaction to the success of Nicola Sturgeon's SNP

There has not since Harold Macmillan’s 1959 election victory been a vote as large for the political right in Britain as the one nine days ago.

The combined Tory-Ukip vote was a staggering 49.5 per cent of the UK total.

Ben Lowry News Letter Deputy Editor

Ben Lowry News Letter Deputy Editor

Mr Macmillan was behind that on 49.4 per cent. Margaret Thatcher, in her best poll, 1979, won 43.9 per cent.

David Cameron’s vote share was modest for a winning party, 36.9 per cent, but it was bolstered by the largest (by far) General Election vote for a small right-wing party.

There is debate over whether Ukip is right wing, and even whether such labels are appropriate amid increasingly complex political loyalties, but on subjects such as tax rates and immigration, Ukip is on the right (perhaps even the hard right).

Some people are surprised that it polled well in Labour areas, but it was dockers, not professionals, who in 1968 striked to back Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech on immigration.

Last week I wrote about the problem of the UK not having proportional representation, but under PR Ukip and the Tories could have governed together (perhaps needing unionist MPs).

In England the right’s triumph was even more stark – the Tories and Ukip got 55.1 per cent of the overall vote. This is being interpreted as England rising up against the Scots nationalist threat (and support fo r right-wing positions on issues such as immigration, economic policy and welfare reform).

Yet while Ukip is dedicated to quitting the EU, and the Tories are committed to an In-Out poll, Europe was not at the top of voter concerns. A Tory MP told me this week that it was Nicola Sturgeon who won him re-election.

There was a widespread sense that Scotland is ungratefully addicted to big government funded by English taxpayers. The latter were not going to tolerate a Labour-SNP agenda.

Unionists need to tread carefully amid this roar from middle England that has no precedent since World War II. In Northern Ireland we demand perks such as free prescriptions that the English don’t get (the DUP demanded an end to ‘the bedroom tax’).

The UK is in peril. England makes up 85 per cent of it. Nigel Farage once said England will not be wagged by the Scots tail. We will be in trouble if that phrase changes to “the Celtic tail”, not just the Scots one.

• Ben Lowry is News Letter deputy editor