The combined vote share of the Conservatives and the United Kingdom Independence Party in Clacton was 84%, and in Rochester and Strood some 77%. Construing this as an anti-Labour-Liberal-Democrat-and-Green vote of approximately 80% it is clearly very significant, notwithstanding the many differences between the Tories and UKIP.
In my view the underlying cause for this result will not be discovered by continuing to focus on previous party allegiances, in other words by asking whether the voters are protesting Tories or irritable Labourites. Instead, it is necessary to consider the main correlations between those voting Conservative and those voting UKIP (CUKIP), on the one hand, and on the other those voting Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Green (LLG). I have no data for what I am about to suggest, but it is intuitively obvious to me that that CUKIP voters are less likely to be either public sector employees, or to work in or own companies that are in effect public sector clients, amongst which I include industries and professions that are heavily dependent on state regulation for their business, for example lawyers, chartered surveyors, accountants, architects, state-supported charities and NGOs, and employees of National Grid or the various railway companies, amongst many others.
LLG voters, by contrast, are much more likely to be public sector employees or clients, and indeed higher income versions of those people, a fact that explains the now yawning gulf opening up between the Labour party and its original supporting class. As an intellectual, bourgeois, authoritarian statist, Ed Miliband has little time for the rebellious, and to my mind admirable, self-protective recalcitrance of the lower third of the social pyramid, a response which he radiates in person and transmits through his shadow cabinet for all to see. It would be unfair, of course, to blame this entirely on Mr Miliband, for the trend is very long-standing, beginning with the Fabians, though Blairisme, if I may be permitted the French term, is the most recent and important watershed explaining the weakening of the habitual Labour vote in England and Wales. In Scotland, where Labour support is simply evaporating, this is additionally accounted for by the SNP's employment of national socialist arguments to assert an alternative collective interest bringing together the statist middle classes and the working people, a compact not so dissimilar, indeed, from that negotiated by Attlee and Bevin.
From this perspective, Mr Cameron's most significant error, which is probably not his own (even his mistakes are cribbed), was to pursue the collectivist vote, the bulk of which is composed of public sector clients of various kinds. This out-reach policy disaffected a substantial part of the Conservative core, creating an opportunity for UKIP and, still more significantly, gave those abandoned by Labour and the Liberal Democrats no reason to do anything other than sit on their hands.
UKIP's achievement, and it is no small one, has been to transform itself from a Conservative party splinter group to a movement that is in its emotional timbre an individualist party opposed to the interests of the public sector clients that currently dominate British life, which is why UKIP's opponents can correctly say that the party hates modern Britain. However, the criticism has no teeth since resentment of the bourgeois public sector putsch that has gradually materialised since 1945 turns out to be very widespread. This broad appeal has enabled UKIP to pick up voters across the population, including many who have previously supported Labour, and even many of those who have not voted in the last four or five elections (hence their silver-backed age distribution). The downside of this strategy is that they are, as their critics delight to say, a negative party, and while this may be a presentational weakness, a positive program of political action is essentially characteristic of the illiberal, interfering, statist approach against which the remaining non-public sector voters are rising, so UKIP's negativity is unavoidable given the aims of the rebellion.
Whether this movement will be successful is obviously very uncertain. The extended public sector is both entrenched and well-salaried, and perhaps much too numerous to defeat electorally. Moreover, in order to mobilise a coherent political party some degree of collectivist motivation is inevitable, and in UKIP's case the possibility of a slide towards a nationalist group identification, verging on socialism, is real, and signs of this are already evident. In such a case they would become similar to the SNP, though in the very different and less sectarian English context this would not be a winning ticket.
If, on the other hand, UKIP can maintain organisational cohesion while staying true to the individualist drive responsible for its prominence, there is a real chance that the insurrection will manage to put its tribunes into positions of power. Of course, this will only be fundamentally important if those delegates can deliver drastic reductions in public spending and thus produce a reduction in the size of the public sector client vote sufficiently large to transform the character of British democracy. UKIP's prospects therefore hang by the single thread of rhetorical tact, a need that explains both their hazy and occasionally contradictory policy positions, and their otherwise apparently imprudent reliance on the voice of one man.