I hadn’t been paying very much attention in the run-up to yesterday’s two by-elections. I had the vague idea that Douglas Carswell was expected to win the Clacton by-election, and that Labour were expected to hold their safe Heywood and Middleton seat.
In the event, UKIP almost won both of them. And they’re both rather remarkable stories. Here are the Heywood and Middleton results in the last two elections.
It looks as if the Labour vote held up, but the Conservative and Lib Dem vote collapsed, and UKIP got 10 times the number of votes as they had 4 years earlier. And Labour didn’t manage to call out its vote. The weather might have had something to do with that – there was heavy rain and even a tornado in NW England yesterday. Dan Hodges in the Telegraph:
The Tories knew Clacton was coming. They had priced defeat in. No one on Labour’s side saw Heywood coming. There had been whispers circulating Labour conference that the party had a problem in the seat. But over the past fortnight the whispers had ceased. Opinion polls gave Labour a 20-point lead. Even in the minutes after the polls closed Labour officials were confidently briefing that victory would be theirs by a comfortable margin. In the end they came within a whisker of losing.
It must’ve been an awful shock for Labour to almost lose what was a regarded as a safe seat.
But Clacton was also remarkable. Here are the figures for the last two elections:
What’s remarkable about this is that Carswell not only quit the Conservative Party and joined UKIP, but that he took his constituents with him. And also won a larger majority, and a higher percentage of the vote.
I’d expected him to win, but with a greatly reduced majority, as voters punished him for disloyalty. Not a bit of it. His Conservative voters were as disloyal as he was. Which suggests that Conservative voters elsewhere may be not be very much more loyal.
Anyway, UKIP now have their first MP in Parliament. In fact they almost got two. For the past decade or so, they’ve been doing well in European elections, but getting nowhere in national elections. And this now looks set to change. Voting UKIP will no longer look like a “wasted vote”.
Next year’s General Election should be very interesting. UKIP say they’re going to be targeting just 9 seats. I reckon they could do much better than that. The Lib Dem vote has collapsed, and their 57 seats will be up for grabs. And neither Labour nor Conservatives are riding particularly high. The only party that’s on a roll is UKIP. So it may just be possible for them to end up holding the balance of power next year. Tim Worstall:
…support for Ukip isn’t, for many, actually a complaint about the EU, it’s a protest against that conformity of view of the political class we now have. Similarly on immigration: those bright young things in their bubble all know, absolutely know, that it’s just great for Britain. Where many Britons aren’t all that sure about that and the protest isn’t against the immigration per se it’s against the disconnect between the views of the ruling political class and the ruled.
Particularly in respect of the smoking ban, in my own case.