UKIP as a whole, Mark Reckless as an individual, his campaign team and every volunteer who went to do their bit on the streets of Rochester and Strood can be proud of their achievement today: UKIP’s 2nd elected MP. The result was not as stunning as some of the polls had led us believe, but it was still a clear victory:

Mark Reckless UKIP 16,867
Kelly Tolhurst Conservative 13,947
Naushabah Khan Labour 6,713
Clive Gregory Green 1,692
Geoff Juby LibDem 349

Of course, the media and the Tories are saying they can win the seat back at the General Election when the “protest vote” effect of the By Election has worn off. I am not so sure and I’ll tell you why.

First, the “soft factors”. Winning the European Elections, winning Clacton, winning Rochester and Strood are all part of a confidence-building exercise, not just for UKIP and its members, but also for the electorate as a whole, who can see that UKIP can win elections, and that a vote for UKIP is a vote for UKIP, not for anyone else.

Yes, some people will vote tactically, but the word “tactics” infers local action, and some will consider the likely outcome in their seat and vote accordingly. But few will consider “If I help elect Party A here, it will help Party B win nationally.” All the pundits now agree that the 2015 Parliament will be a hung one, probably needing 3 parties to form a coalition and that reduces this fear factor.

I’d like to look at the numbers behind the voting to see if there has been any local “tactical” voting. In the weeks after the May elections, as our readers will know, I did a massive analysis of the Euro and Local elections across England and Wales. With proportional representation, people will have voted with their hearts, few with any considerations of a tactical vote.

I also did some projections. For the Euro results, I used the mean of 3 opinion polls conducted AFTER the election to ask voters if they would stick with UKIP in a General Election. The mean of these polls was that 72% would remain as UKIP voters, but 18% would “go back” to the Tories, 9% to Labour and 1% to the Liberal Democrats.

Based on Medway Council Euro Count (which covers about 2.7 constituencies) I came up with this prediction for Rochester and Strood:

Party Prediction: Votes/Percent By Election: Votes/Percent
UKIP 17,657 33.71% 16,867 42.10%
Conservative 16,907 32.27% 13,947 34.81%
Labour 12,622 24.09% 6,713 16.76%
Green 2,964 5.66% 1,692 4.22%
Liberal Democrat 2,236 4.27% 349 0.87%

(The votes in the prediction are representative of a normal GE turnout of around 65-70%, the By Election had a 50% turnout)

Exactly the same order as the By Election, and broadly similar figures, with one teensy weensy exception: the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green numbers are a somewhat lower in the By Election, to the tune of about 11%.

  • Q:  Where did those votes “go”?
  • A:  About 9% to UKIP and 2% to the Tories.

So, the Tories did not get any substantial gains out of their attempts to convince Labour and Liberal Democrat voters to tactically vote for them to “keep UKIP out”. But what about the movement from Labour and Liberal Democrat? Is this a more permanent change, with the “left behinds” realising that Labour do not care for them any more but that UKIP  will? The Liberal Democrats have been the traditional repository of the “Neither Tory nor Labour” vote at General Elections – have they now moved permanently to UKIP as the “Not LibLabCon” vote?

This gives me heart, and I hope it gives Mark Reckless and his local supporters heart. If he works hard locally (which we know he will) and he has some solid performances in the Commons then I am confident that will allow him to consolidate his gains as a UKIPper, and remain in seat in May 2015.

Now, the rest of us have to go out to our constituencies, with the belief that what Matthew Goodwin has defined as “UKIP’s 271st most winnable seat” will give us the opportunities and motivation to win more seats in May.

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