Back in December after three impressive by-election results, I wrote an article on this blog (‘The Winds of Change? 01-12-2012) asking if we were about to see a sea change in the direction of politics in England.
The tide continued to flow in UKIP’s favour at Eastleigh in February, where Diane James recorded an impressive second place in a by-election , pushing the Conservatives in to third and showing a vote increase of over 20% on our outing there at the 2010 general election.
With the polls showing increased support following on from this, we approached last Thursday’s local elections with confidence and with the media forecasting a number of breakthroughs for the party – Little did we realise just how many were about to occur!
Thursday 2nd May 2013 – The day that shook the establishment
With no elections of our own in Hillingdon, branch members assisted our colleagues in Buckinghamshire and Essex.
It soon became apparent that the incumbent Conservative councillors in these areas were very worried about our impact, with the Essex Tories releasing local leaflets focusing on the EU and mass immigration (pictured below) – Subjects that local Conservatives in Hillingdon have criticised us for putting on our literature in the past!
Nationally, it also became apparent that Labour finally woke up to the reality that ‘their’ voters are just as susceptible to the UKIP message as traditional Conservatives, with Richard Elvin scoring another by-election second in South Shields to follow on from seconds in Middlesbrough, Rotherham and Barnsley over the last 18 months. These are Labour heartland areas where the Conservatives do not traditionally do well – From a standing start, Richard took 24% of the vote in less than a month of campaigning, denting the Labour majority from the general election result of 2010.
The statistics do not lie – UKIP are now the official party of opposition to Labour in the north of England.
In a frantic final week of campaigning, sections of the media started to highlight UKIP candidates who they claimed had indulged in ‘dubious’ behaviour – Out of over 1700 candidates standing, it is to the party’s credit that they only found 6 or 7 to focus on and all were stood down to face investigation when their actions were pointed out.
It was interesting to see this apparent feeding frenzy, with Tory dinosaur Kenneth Clarke being wheeled out at the weekend to condemn our party as ‘clowns’ and to repeat the ‘closet racist ‘ remarks of David Cameron, a sure sign of near panic in their ranks.
(Further embarrassment for the Tories followed when it was revealed that one of their candidates standing in Rossendale was an ex-BNP and England First officer, link below)
With polling day looming, political pundits were predicting that UKIP could win as many as 40 seats and deny the Conservatives victories by taking an increased vote share.
By 4am the following morning, it became apparent that they had massively underestimated the impact that UKIP had made on the doorstep – An email sent to activists by party secretary Jonathan Arnott with just 373 seats reported in showed that we had already taken 43 seats, with over 200 second places and around 26.2% of the vote!
Breaking in to the mainstream
By the time the final results came in, it had become obvious that the sea change that I wrote of back in December had come to pass.
The full results can be seen below –
- 1.25 million votes across the country – more than at the last General Election
- UKIP won 154 Council seats (including 6 at District/Unitary by-elections)
- Average of 24.6% of the vote where we stood
- 17 County Council seats in Kent, 16 in Lincolnshire, 12 in Cambridgeshire, 9 in Essex
- UKIP will become the ‘official opposition’ or hold the balance of power on a number of Councils
- The EasternCounties (26.2%) and South East (26.1%) were UKIP’s top two performing regions.
- 878 UKIP candidates finished in second place
- 776 UKIP candidates took more than 25% of the vote
- In wards where UKIP and the Lib Dems went head to head, UKIP took over 300,000 votes more than the Lib Dems
- In wards where UKIP and Labour went head to head, UKIP took almost 200,000 votes more than Labour
- UKIP finishes ahead of the Conservatives in almost 500 seats across the country
- UKIP took the most votes across at least 2 Parliamentary constituencies (Great Yarmouth and Boston & Skegness), possibly more.
What now for UKIP?
With European and local elections in London (Including Hillingdon) next year, the electorate can now be confident that after these elections a vote for UKIP will mean you get a UKIP councillor or MEP, finally burying the standard Tory line that a vote for UKIP lets Labour in by splitting the vote.
Likewise, Labour cannot claim that UKIP are just the Tories in disguise as our gains in the North prove that we are now the natural home for disenfranchised working class voters.
The next year will show what UKIP councillors can do at a local level, where the party encourages them to act in the interests of their constituents and they are not ‘whipped’ to follow a party line ahead of the needs of the community.
A good indication of how that may work out can be seen in Ramsey in Cambs, where UKIP had a majority on the council before the elections.
On Thursday, our candidates were re-elected with a thumping 67% vote share – Proof positive that UKIP have the policies and the drive to make a difference to local communities.
With thanks to Jonathan Arnott for the statistics on the 2nd May elections.