Is Yorkshire still the promised land for UKIP?

UKIP badges Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption UKIP supporters continue to work hard across Yorkshire despite their leader's absence from the campaign trail in the county

Every main party national leader has jumped at the chance to be quizzed by a BBC Look North viewers' panel at the Yorkshire news programme's Leeds studios.

After all, some of the UK's most closely-fought seats are in Yorkshire so all the leaders should be trekking to the county several times in the weeks of campaigning before the polls open on 7 May.

UKIP's Nigel Farage has been the exception.

He had no problems accepting the invitation to explain his party's policies to the panel but not a single date could be found when he would even set foot in Yorkshire during the campaign.

The programme's recording had to be squeezed into a whistlestop tour he was making of the Great Grimsby and Boston seats in Lincolnshire where UKIP has high hopes of taking a seat each from Labour and the Conservatives.

So the panel of viewers, technicians, cameras, crew and a satellite truck were driven 80 miles east to a hired venue in Grimsby to ensure Mr Farage was able to make his broadcast.

Noisy demonstration

What surprised the Look North production crew was the UKIP media team's insistence that even if the broadcast had been delayed it would still not have been possible to record it in Yorkshire as the UKIP leader has no plans to campaign in the county.

That must have been an even bigger surprise to voters in the cluster of the neighbouring three South Yorkshire seats of Wentworth and Dearne, Rother Valley and Rotherham who have been assured by the local UKIP candidates that they are on the verge of breaking Labour's traditional grip.

So if the party leader is no longer giving these seats his full attention does that mean UKIP's ambitions are falling away?

That notion is totally refuted by the local UKIP campaigners who say they are working as hard as ever and the non-appearance of their charismatic leader is simply because he has a national campaign to run.

After all, it was Mr Farage who came to Rotherham in February to snip the ceremonial tape at the door of the Rotherham campaign office. Or, at least he would have done but a noisy demonstration of left-wing campaigners on the street outside meant he had to stay inside building.

Poll position?

There is another worry for UKIP in South Yorkshire.

Some opinion polls appear to be indicating that the evidence for Labour supporters crossing to UKIP is at best thin and the party's support could already have peaked some way short of taking a winning lead.

The pollsters Survation, in Rotherham, and a separate poll by Conservative Peer Lord Ashcroft in Rother Valley showed the Tory and Liberal Democrat vote collapsing but Labour's support holding up well.

Both polls showed support for UKIP had grown but the party was still firmly in second place.

These polls were both conducted in the last quarter of 2014, well before the full-blown election campaigns started and could well be dismissed as an irrelevant piece of political history.

However, since then hundreds of national polls appear to indicate that the relative positions of Labour, UKIP and the Conservatives have fluctuated slightly, but have remained roughly the same.

As politicians tend to remind us, particularly those who are lagging behind, the only poll of any real value is the general election itself.

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