Thursday 29th November 2012 may go down as the start of a sea change in British politics.
That evening saw three by-elections across England, two in the north and one in a working class London suburb in the south. Two were triggered by the deaths of well-respected local MP’s, whilst the Rotherham ballot was triggered by the resignation of Dennis McShane following a scandal surrounding fiddled expenses and false accounting – Unsurprisingly, this was the election that the media concentrated on due to the high profile nature of Mr McShane.
Labour victories in all three seats were expected – The real story would be what kind of margin of victory would be achieved and how hard would the current unpopularity of the coalition government affect their support?
UKIP were contesting all three seats following on from the Corby by-election of a fortnight ago where Margot Parker had polled a credible third place with 5108 votes and 14.32% of the vote – The Conservative vote dropped 15.63% as they lost the seat to Labour, whilst their coalition partners The Liberal Democrats polled less than 5% and lost their deposit.
Could UKIP replicate this impressive outing and continue to push their claims as the new ‘third force’ on the political landscape?
Making an impact
It became clear by early evening that UKIP were doing exceptionally well in both Rotherham and Middlesbrough. Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall (Above, with candidate Richard Elvin) reported from Middlesbrough that even the Labour activists were saying that UKIP were going to finish second, a result that was confirmed later on in the evening.
The Buzz from Rotherham, also later confirmed, was that UKIP were pushing hard and were the main opposition to Labour retaining the seat whilst initial reports from the Croydon North constituency were that Winston McKenzie was pulling off a solid result against more fancied opponents.
With the final counts in from the polling stations, the scores were confirmed as follows –
Rotherham – Jane Collins – 2nd – 21.6% of the vote
Middlesbrough – Richard Elvin – 2nd – 11.8% of the vote.
Croydon North – Winston McKenzie – 3rd – 5.7% of the vote.
Rotherham recorded the best by-election result ever in UKIP history just a fortnight after Margot Parker had set a new benchmark in Corby. Whilst the high profile scandal of Rotherham social services taking children from a foster couple for the crime of being UKIP members obviously contributed (Where were these busybodies over the last 10 years whilst child grooming gangs operated in Rotherham one feels compelled to ask?), the down to earth nature of UKIP policy on a variety of issues obviously resonated with the electorate as party leader Nigel Farage pointed out when interviewed by the BBC immediately afterwards (Below)
In the northern by-elections, UKIP finished ahead of both of the Coalition government partners again as had happened earlier in the year in the Barnsley by-election and can now make a claim to be the main opposition to Labour in their heartland territories. In all three by-elections, the Liberal Democrats were defeated (They lost their deposits in two of the three to follow on from their lost deposit in Corby) – They have now been beaten by UKIP in five of the last six parliamentary by-elections and have consistently trailed us in the opinion polls for most of this year.
Of the other parties, Respect were tipped to do well in both Rotherham and Croydon North but failed to repeat George Galloway’s shock victory in Bradford. Their candidate in Croydon North, the controversial Lee Jasper, lost his deposit and was soundly beaten by Winston McKenzie despite the presence of their battle bus on the final Saturday of campaigning where they made a concerted push and were expected to do well.
The BNP vote also dropped in Rotherham despite their third placed finish and seems to confirm that their decline as an electoral force is thankfully continuing, whilst the Greens also failed to make an impact.
The English Democrats were making very bullish noises in the run up to Rotherham following a second place in the recent Police Commissioner elections in the area, but despite concentrating all their resources on the one by-election they came a distant sixth with a lost deposit for their ex-Liberal Democrat candidate, David Wildgoose.
The start of a new force?
Whilst one swallow does not make a summer, UKIP results over the last eighteen months in local elections, parliamentary by-elections and the recent Police Commissioner elections have all shown an upward impetus.
UKIP regularly do well in European elections, where we have more MEP’s than all of the other parties except the Conservatives, a position that may well be reversed in 2014 on current trends.
With the Liberal Democrats in disarray as the public show them at the ballot box what they think of their broken promises, this could be the start of the break up of the cosy establishment triumvirate that have wrecked England over the last forty years. If so, our country may finally see MP’s representing them in a parliament that no longer consists of the elites from right and left but of ordinary people who are more interested in right or wrong – A parliament elected by the people of England and no longer answerable to unelected bureaucrats in a foreign country.
Maybe Thursday 29th November 2012 will be remembered in history as the first step – For our children and grandchildren’s sake, I sincerely hope that this comes to pass.