Now that the euphoria of the recent elections is beginning to wane the several parties can now do some serious thinking about the consequences.
Looking back to the Newark by-election the Conservatives were well aware of the threat by UKIP and the expenses scandal that had caused the MPs’ resignation. They knew that Roger Helmer was a prominent UKIP member and an MEP so they decided to ‘throw the book’ at Newark.
During the run up to election day the Prime minister firmly requested all of his MPs to go to Newark at least 3 times if at all possible to present the governments’ case and face. It has been suggested that in the run up to the election the Conservatives achieved over 600 man days of campaigning. (Being politically incorrect I here presume that the term man includes woman.)
In contrast the UKIP campaign was as low as 80 man-days of campaigning and of course Nigel was not able to keep attending due to his other duties.
The result was that after ‘throwing the book at it’ the Conservatives won but with a percentage of the vote that had dropped by 8.9% to 45%. UKIP came second with 25.9% of the vote, up 22.1%. Labour didn’t try very hard and came in third with 17.7% of the vote, down 4.7%. An Independent came in 4th with 4.9%. Green came 5th with 2.7%. The Liberals came in behind the Greens with 1.5%, down 18.5%.
That result tells us that the Conservatives are in big trouble because they just cannot do to constituencies in a general election what they did at Newark so could lose quite a few seats. UKIP has a small but well motivated groundswell of support and in this case took votes from Conservatives, Labour, and mainly from the Liberals.
The Labour party never thought they could win here, so really didn’t put the effort in. As a result they dropped to 3rd place, which might have come as a surprise and a bit of a shock.
The Liberal party vote had collapsed as it had lost its purpose as the party of protest and what was left was a tiny core vote.
This was a whole different ball-game because the UKIP prospective candidate was formerly the Conservative MP. It meant that he had the advantage of being an incumbent with a large voter support that he had earned. This put the conservatives on the back foot because they now had to put up a relatively unknown prospective candidate.
As we expected Douglas Carswell won and with 59.7% of the vote for UKIP, 6.7% higher than he had in the 2010 general election as a Conservative candidate. The Conservatives knew election this was a lost cause but they did try to limit their losses and came in second with 24.6% of the vote, down 28.4%.
Labour didn’t put much effort in at all and dropped from second place in 2010 to third place with just 11.2%, down 13.8%. The Green party came in fourth with 1.9% of the vote, up 0.7%. Then came the Liberals with 1.4% of the vote, down 11.5%.
This result tells us that a hard working and popular MP has a home port advantage, regardless which party he represents. That UKIP took lots of votes from the Conservatives and Labour and that the Liberal vote had collapsed again bringing them in behind the Green party.
Heywood & Middleton
This was a different situation again from the other two elections as here a sitting MP had died in office. This meant there was no cloud of ill-will directed at the party of the previous incumbent.
Labour ‘threw the book’ at this election and one supporter interviewed had received eight leaflets personally addressed to her during the campaign and had also received three visits to ensure her support. They held the seat with 40.9% of the vote, up 0.8%, but almost 10% lower than opinion polls had predicted. UKIP came in second with 38.7% of the vote, up 36.1% since 2010 and almost 9% higher than the opinion polls.
The Conservatives didn’t put in much effort here and actually hoped that it would prove that voting UKIP resulted in a Labour victory. They came in third and only polled 12.3%, down by 14.9% from 2010. The Liberal vote again collapsed to 5.1%, down by 17.6%, but on this occasion they beat the Greens who came in 5th with 3.1% of the vote.
This result tells us that like Newark the incumbent party can hang on by throwing the book at it but are unlikely to be able to put in the same amount of effort at a general election. By coming from nothing to within 617 votes of Labour was an incredible achievement for UKIP.
Summary of all three
In each election it has been really a two horse race with either the Conservatives or Labour not putting in too much effort if they are unlikely to win. These two parties can hold on to incumbent seats but only using a massive ground offensive, which they are unlikely to be able to repeat in a general election.
In Heywood & Middleton the relatively small Conservative vote actually stopped UKIP from taking the seat. This was clearly a case of vote Conservative get Labour.
In each case we have seen the party that was previously placed second as essentially avoiding battle and leaving UKIP as the challenger. This gives an opportunity to UKIP to pick up votes from the second party as well as from disillusioned Liberals and protest voters. On that basis there are a more potential seats for UKIP than the opinion poll percentages would suggest.
Photo by duncan