Douglas Alexander has warned Ukip presents a “clear and present danger” and could erode Labour support at the general election in Scotland, in the same way the SNP has in recent years.
The party’s chief election strategist suggested the rise of the populist Ukip – which made sweeping electoral gains across the UK in May and won its first Euro MP for Scotland – could follow the advances made by the Nationalists “over 30 years”.
The shadow foreign secretary issued the stark warning as he outlined how the party plans to oust the Tories when voters go to the polls next May.
He spoke in the closing session of Labour’s conference in Manchester alongside deputy leader Harriet Harman.
Mr Alexander made a direct comparison between Nigel Farage’s party and the SNP as he told the Labour conference to prepare for an electoral challenge from the party, which won 10 per cent of the vote in Scotland and took its first Scottish MEP David Coburn in May’s European Parliament elections.
The Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South said the growth of support for Ukip reminded him of the way the SNP had started to become a force in the 1980s.
He said: “We do take the challenge posed by Ukip seriously. During 30 years in Scottish politics, I saw the Nationalists take out Labour MPs, and take out Labour MSPs in Scottish Parliament elections.
“Ukip poses a risk. It will seek to try to attract votes using the profile of its leader Nigel Farage.The fuel in the tank of Ukip is more anti-politics, than anti-Europe.”
Mr Alexander went on to state Labour would target Ukip during its campaign and attempt to expose the party as right-wing and Thatcherite.
He said: “We have to make sure that we make it clear that Ukip is a right-wing party that wants public services cut for the least well-off and that wants tax cuts for the wealthiest.
“It’s a party that wants people to pay for going to see their GP. Nigel Farage has said that he sees himself as the spiritual heir of Margaret Thatcher. We need to be clear that Ukip represents a clear and present danger.”
Mr Alexander also warned that the Conservatives would fight a “fear and smear campaign” against Mr Miliband in the run-up to the election.
He said: “I anticipate that it will be the most personally vicious campaign by the Conservatives that we’ve seen in recent years.”
In her closing speech, Ms Harman singled out Gordon Brown’s contribution to the No campaign.
She said: “Less than a week ago, people in Scotland were going to the polls and we are all so relieved that they decided to stay with the UK. Because when it comes to the cause of progressive politics, the struggle for social justice and the fight to kick out the Tories, we are better together.
“So we owe a big debt of gratitude to all you who campaigned and especially to Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Anas Sarwar.
“But there’s one person who played a key role in keeping the Union together – someone who’s had the biggest comeback since Cheryl Cole made it back on to the X Factor, our former prime minister, Gordon Brown.”
In response to Mr Alexander’s speech, Ukip MEP for Scotland David Coburn said his party’s electoral gain north of the Border was partly due to an increase in support from working-class Labour supporters.
He said: “We have got so much support on [housing] estates as people see us as a fresh start and view Labour and the SNP as the establishment.”
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said: “Douglas Alexander might want to reflect on the fact that he was on the same side as Ukip in last week’s referendum.”