Even though it came within a whisker of winning the Eastleigh by-election last week neither Deane nor Abell believes the UK Independence Party will win any more than one seat in the 2015 General Election.
However, both believe it is now a credible political force. Abell, head of crisis at Pagefield, argues: ‘They are credible in the sense that they are dramatically changing the landscape that the Tories have to operate in … without necessarily being a credible electable force themselves. UKIP animates the Tory party’s divisions.’
Deane, head of public affairs at Weber Shandwick, claims next year’s European elections will see the Conservatives given a bloody nose not only by UKIP but by sections of the media.
‘In the 2014 European elections UKIP will almost certainly be backed by the Express and possibly by The Sun,’ he says.
‘The Sun’s been beating up this Government on issue after issue in recent months … It’s almost as if they have to find a reason not to back UKIP.’
‘If [that happens] there is going to be a seismic difference in the way we take that party seriously in media terms.’
Adding spice to Deane’s point, Abell comments: ‘The ghost of Leveson then is quite important. Neither side will admit this but one of the bargaining chips is Cameron’s stance on regulating the press. Press freedom has always been very important to The Sun and Murdoch and so Cameron’s personal popularity and the political stance of the paper will depend to a certain extent on where we stand with statutory regulation.’
Watch the full video for more comment on issues such as UKIP’s media appeal, its policies, relevance to public affairs professionals and how Tory media strategists are reacting to it.
The podcast is produced in association with Markettiers4DC.