PPS Political Blog: Five thoughts on last night’s by-elections

Five thoughts on last night’s by-elections

Published on by Douglas Johnson


So UKIP has won its first seat in parliament and came astoundingly close to taking a second. There is no doubt that Douglas Carswell’s 59.7% share of the by-election votes is an impressive win but is it possible to overstate the importance of this morning’s news? We think it might be:

1.       Too early to call: It’s one thing to win a by-election with a well-known and liked incumbent resigning on a point of principle (see David Davis’ win in Haltemprice and Howden), quite another to win a seat at a General Election. UKIP’s real test will be holding the Clacton seat in May 2015.

2.       Turnout: The Conservatives are briefing hard about flagging enthusiasm for Labour in Heywood and Middleton. Labour’s turnout significantly dropped and their majority increased by less than 1%. That said, turnout dropped for all parties – hardly unusual at a mid-term by-election in what was perceived by many in Labour to be a safe seat.

3.       Medway: If Mark Reckless can repeat Carswell’s victory in a month’s time, UKIP will be flying high. A defeat could suggest that the Clacton victory was more to do with personalities than politics.

4.       Marginals: It’s clear after UKIP’s performance it’s likely to be a disruptive force in marginal seats for both Labour and Conservatives, making them harder to call. Research by the Fabian Society suggests Labour-held Great Grimsby, Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View, Rother Valley and Rotherham and Conservative-held South Thanet, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth and Waveney might be up in the air as a result.

5.       Small comfort: It’s not all tears and fears for Ed Miliband, with Labour taking UKIP’s only seat at Crawley Borough Council in a by-election last night. It’s easily overlooked – but typical of UKIP’s difficulty of holding onto its gains at a local level.

Douglas Johnson

Douglas Johnson about the author…

Joining the company in 2013, Douglas specialises in local and regional public affairs, stakeholder and community engagement, public consultation, and supporter mobilisation.

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