Rivalry on the right: The Conservatives, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the EU issue
journal contributionposted on 30.03.2015, 11:39 authored by Philip Lynch, Richard Whitaker
Multi-party politics alters the dynamics of party competition in Westminster elections. In a case study of the Conservative Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), theories of niche versus mainstream party competition are used to examine the strategies adopted by a soft Eurosceptic mainstream party and hard Eurosceptic niche party as they compete on the issue of European integration. These theories are also extended to look at how niche parties react to their mainstream competitors’ strategies. In competition with UKIP, the Conservatives have both developed a distinctive soft Eurosceptic position and defused the EU issue. With Conservative policies diluted in coalition government, UKIP has targeted disillusioned Conservative voters. It has sought to raise the salience of the EU issue and highlight its radical position while also developing a broader narrative. The findings suggest that mainstream parties may adopt more than one strategy simultaneously and that niche parties may react to mainstream parties’ adversarial strategies by emphasising differences and attempting to widen their appeal.