Just under a year ago I published a blog taking a retrospective look at the 2014 European Parliament and local elections to consider what UKIP’s 2014 successes might mean for the Party’s General Election chances. That blog and another since highlighted the fact that while UKIP’s recent history has been characterised by relatively successful European elections followed by poor general election performances, signs were pointing to a slightly different outcome this time. Indeed, most political commentators were unsurprised by the 10-point boost to UKIP’s vote share relative to 2010, and perhaps as testament to the curiosities of a FPTP system, equally unsurprised by the lack of seats this translated to.
Despite winning only a single seat in May, UKIP hailed the General Election as a step in the right direction, citing it as evidence that their “2020 strategy” – building a platform of support to challenge in the next General Election – is on track. Besides the almost 3.9 million votes cast for UKIP, one of the main justifications for this optimism was the number of seats in which the UKIP candidate came second. While in 2010 the party registered zero second place finishes, in 2015 they achieved 120 – almost twice the number managed by the Liberal Democrats and two-thirds that of the Conservatives. But does this really point towards more seats in 2020? A closer look at this subset of seats and the way in which those second place finishes were secured could help answer this question.