Holyrood Elections 2021: John Curtice says Nigel Farage's Reform UK will split Unionist vote
According to a leading UK pollster, Nigel Farage’s new party poses the most risk to the Scottish conservative party at this year’s Holyrood elections.
Professor Sir John Curtice told The National Newspaper that Reform UK Scotland would be targeting the same pro-Brexit supporters as the Conservatives which could mean a loss of votes for the more established party.
While around a third of SNP voters backed leaving the European Union in 2016, Sir Curtice believes Nicola Sturgeon’s party would not see its electoral performance damaged by the new party as the ‘British nationalism’ message it advanced would not appeal to Yes supporters.
“More leave voters vote Tory than anything else, so the Tories are the ones which will be least happy,” Curtice told The National.
Sir John also noted that it was ‘unlikely’ that Labour would return to become the main opposition even if the Conservatives lost votes to Reform UK Scotland.
He said to gain more presence in parliament, Labour would have to take remain-backing votes off the SNP, adding that this ambition would be hard for Scottish Labour as UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s stance was to move on from Brexit.
He said in the interview with The National: “The Labour party position in the polls has improved a bit, the average is now about 17% rather than 16%, but the Tories are running just below what they got in 2016.
“It (Labour) is much better placed than the Tories to take votes off the SNP but the fact that Keir Starmer has decided to say that Brexit is over and that we’re not going to seek to change the treaty, is certainly not going to help his party in May.”
Former Tory MSP and leadership contender Michelle Ballantyne was unveiled on Monday as the Scottish leader of Farage’s Reform UK party.
The party intends to field candidates on the regional list section of this year’s Holyrood election.
Curtice, who is professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the fact that Reform UK was standing in the Holyrood election would “add to the variety” but overall he didn’t think the party would “make much impact”.
He said its anti-lockdown message was “niche” and not one which would gather much support at the election.
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