The LibDems have reacted to the UKIP threat by issuing its activists with a handy little document called "Campaign Briefing, UKIP in the 2014 Local Elections".
From the title it may appear that the LibDems have already given up the ghost on the European MEP elections on the 22nd May and are more intent on salvaging their reputation through the local elections. The European elections seem to be a throw away few paragraphs at the end – unless of course there is a separate briefing document for the MEP elections. Also bear in mind that this is issued by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors as well as Lib Dem HQ.
The document (download link below) gives "Advice and background from ALDC and LDHQ on how to approach UKIP in the forthcoming local elections on May 22nd" and says that "It's vital that you do not let UKIP divert you from your campaign'. It goes on to say that "UKIP have (sic) the ability as to destabilise the established dynamics of many local elections campaigns up and down the UK".
The document also appears to brand UKIP supporters as racist by saying that "Others will simply be repulsed by their anti-Europeanism and racism".
Saying that it is important for LibDems 'not to panic' it says that campaigners must 'focus on our positive message about jobs in Europe'.
One of the main themes in the guidance paper is that very few people choose between UKIP and the LibDems, which is something that UKIP would vehemently argue with given Nigel Farage's comments during the party's conference in Torquay over Friday and Saturday of last week where he said that people were turning away from Tory, Labour and LibDem alike to choose UKIP.
The LibDems have lumped UKIP support into two camps:
• Disaffected voters mainly from Conservative background and a few from Labour
• Protest voters
The five page document also says that "When compared to Lib Dem voters, UKIP voters care much more about immigration and Europe and much less about the economy, health, education and the environment", presumably an attempt to pigeon-hole UKIP voters.
Tellingly though the LibDems had to acknowledge that one in four of their voters also view immigration as a 'top issue'. The document then went on to try and explain why their voters concerns over immigration were 'different' from those of the UKIP supporters.
The LibDem briefing also says that they are the party of 'in' and that UKIP will just put jobs and investment at risk – without giving any real guidance on what to say if a voter asks 'how is that then?'
One of the LibDem strategies outlined in the document is to 'work the postal vote', something that Nigel Farage has said is damaging to democracy as people cast their votes before the arguments are fully heard – and are more open to abuse than traditional polling booth voting.
Overall it looks as though Nick Clegg's LibDems are very rattled by UKIP.