United Kingdom Independence Party wins crucial by-election

Mark Reckless, UKIP's second member of parliament, is followed out of St. Stephen's entrance of the Houses of Parliament by UKIP's first MP Douglas Carswell in Westminster, London, on Friday.  

The victory of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) candidate, the former Conservative Member of Parliament Mark Reckless in the election for the Rochester and Strood parliamentary seat is being widely seen as marking a shift in traditional British politics in the run-up to the May 2015 general elections.

The anti-immigration and Eurosceptic political party has eaten into the base of not just the Conservative party –- which has suffered the biggest loss in vote share — but the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties as well.

The by-election was called following the defection of Mr. Reckless to the UKIP two months ago.

Mr. Reckless polled 16,867 votes, which accounts for a little over 42 per cent of the total vote. This is a lead of almost 3000 votes over Kelly Tolhurst from the Conservative Party, who came second with 13,947 votes and a 34.8 per cent vote share. The Conservative Party’s support base has fallen by 14.4 percentage points from the last elections.

The Labour Party candidate Naushabah Khan polled 6,713 votes or 16.8 per cent of the total share, which marks a fall of 11.7 percentage points from its last performance in the same constituency. The Liberal Democratic candidate performed the worst of the three mainstream parties, coming fifth with 349 votes – or 0.9 percent of the total vote.

For the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, his party’s performance reflects much more than voter disillusionment with the three mainstream parties. It represents, in his view, a positive vote for its policies.

“All bets are off for the general election,” he said after the results were announced. “If you vote UKIP, you get UKIP,” he said, adding, “the people out there who vote UKIP intend to stay with UKIP.”

That is something the Conservative Party, and its leader David Cameron, have already vowed will not happen. Mr. Cameron has predicted that his party will win back the seat in the next elections.

Nevertheless, the Rochester and Strood result is a worrisome development for the Conservative Party, as it suggests that UKIP’s Euroscepticism and anti-immigrant campaign platform may be having an impact after all on voters.

Mr. Cameron had vowed to “throw the kitchen sink” at the constituency to win it, and visited it five times during the campaign in his efforts to stall the UKIP advance.

This defeat comes not long after a similar defeat in Clacton, where like Mr. Reckless, the sitting Conservative MP Douglas Carswell defected to UKIP and re-contested the seat successfully.

The two new UKIP MPs have predicted more defections in the lead up to the elections. Mr. Farage said that many Tory MPs would be now “sucking their teeth” as they contemplated a shift to UKIP.

The Labour Party too has seen a significant loss of voter-support to UKIP. To add to its troubles, the party’s shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry was forced to resign from the Labour front bench after being accused of “sneering” by tweeting a picture of a Rochester house with St. George flags flapping from its windows, and a white van parked outside.

A furious Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader told BBC Radio 4 that the tweet gave a “misleading impression of the Labour Party’s view of that family, of disrespect”. The seriousness with which the Labour Party has reacted to what many might regard as an innocuous tweet (the image carried no accompanying comment) is a measure of its seriousness not to give up its position as the party of the working class — a position that UKIP threatens to occupy.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:37:55 AM |

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