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A new poll has suggested that a third of Britons would vote for UKIP in the general election next year if they thought that they could win.

Analysts are now saying that the exponential growth of the Eurosceptic party may mean that Nigel Farage and his party are a legitimate threat in the election.

A poll for the Observer by Opinium found 31% of voters would back the party if they could win in their constituency, 33% of Tory voters, 25% of Liberal Democrats and 18% of Labour supporters. But 40% believed it was a wasted vote.

This poll puts the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck on 33%, with UKIP on 18%, the Liberal Democrats on 6% and the Greens on 4%. Although the polling for the Liberal Democrats might be a little high with some even suggesting that the Greens have overtaken them.

Farage is the most popular party leader, but all have negative ratings, with the UKIP leader at-1%, David Cameron on -6%, Ed Milband on -23% and Nick Clegg on -43%. I would suggest that Farage’s approval is at this level as he has not had to deal with any political blunders from his party. The numbers for Cameron and Miliband are likely to rebound as the Scottish independence talk and the defection issues for the Conservatives potentially dissipates.

Professor Rob Ford from the University of Manchester has claimed that “UKIP could be a party of opposition in subsequent elections. If Ukip perform in line with current polling, they will secure strong second-place finishes in a wide range of seats next year, and then, like the Liberal Democrats before them, they can take their case to voters as the party of local opposition.”

He would continue when talking about previously strong seats for one particular party “The large swath of the electorate willing to seriously consider the party will make this a viable option in a wide range of seats, potentially opening a wide swath of constituencies to an unprecedented challenge.”

The main fear for the Conservative party has to be that with the upcoming by-election in Rochester and Strood, triggered by Mark Reckless’ defection, another win for UKIP could lead to yet further defections from the Conservative Party. MP’s will have to make a political calculation and if they are a member of UKIP with all of the momentum currently they are more likely to hold on to their seat than with the Conservatives.

I mentioned this several months ago that UKIP were not going away; this poll should be deeply troubling to those who thought the issue would go away. We should be more concerned as an electorate however considering that the main policy ideas of UKIP appear to be to leave the EU and close the borders. The UKIP position that the European question needs to be addressed is a valid point, but we cannot legitimately consider them a solution, they appear little more than a one policy party to their electorate and yet they are gaining traction.

UKIP may end up being this elections “king-maker” as the Liberal Democrats were in the previous election. How would it appear to the rest of the world if our deputy prime minister was Nigel Farage? If we are not ready for that potential reality we need to start questioning this movement to the right. There needs to be a thorough investigation on an individual level about what UKIP stands for beyond the closure of borders. We need to see what happens when their positions are truly criticised and debated. We need to know what they can do for the country as a whole and our relationship with the world. We need to know what they stand for, not just what can be put on a billboard with their name attached. We need to know what happens if they get elected.