June 6, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
So there we go – the Conservatives won the Newark by-election. They retained their 44th safest seat, a seat in which they had had over 50% of the total vote in the last election and which they had won in 2001 – which was in all other ways a disastrous election for the Conservatives. A cardboard cut-out of a candidate won, delivering a speech that was not massively gracious (see here for that), having won the Conservatives first by-election as a government in 25 years after a campaign in which (in the words of Labour’s Chris Bryant – “They didn’t just throw the kitchen sink at it – they threw the butlers’ sink, they threw the crockery, all the silverware, the Aga, the butler, the home help, everything at it”. The point is – this ‘victory’ means very little for the Conservatives.
Related to that, the loss means very little to Labour. They knew they had no chance of winning, and wasted few resources on it. They can’t win a General election by aiming at seats like Newark, and they read the runes of the political climate at the moment and knew the protest vote about the Government and politics in general was going to go to UKIP. Far more important to them will be the marginal seats – and Lord Ashcroft’s recent poll on marginal seats (click here) made very good reading for them. If it is right, then the results in those marginal seats (where the majorities are so low that it is possible they could change hands) would result in a 6.5% swing to Labour, enough to win them 85 seats and a comfortable majority in 2015. Ashcroft argues that this is not a prediction, and that it was noticeable that these voters were relatively happy about the economy and only 30% thought Ed Miliband would make a better Prime Minister than David Cameron – but it still made happier reading and will justify the resources that will be devoted to those seats during what I still fear will be ‘Project 35%’ (enough to sneak a majority) next May.
As for UKIP, Roger Helmer, their candidate – achieved 22% more of the vote than the previous candidate, and pointed out (and is probably right) that across the countries MPs should be looking over their shoulder for UKIP. Ashcroft’s polls have suggested that there are now some three-way marginals around the country between Conservatives, Labour and UKIP, and this result, albeit in a by-election, suggests that there are going to be more UKIP involvement in marginals that we might have thought a month ago. It was also good news for UKIP because whilst the worst result would have been a crushing defeat with less than 10% of the vote, the next worst would have been a narrow defeat, as people would have been able to say that they would have won if Nigel Farage had stood, and returned to the ‘chicken’ taunts they used when he decided not in back in April – I have already explained (here) why it was the right decision, but in a way the margin of defeat here would have been a quiet relief for him.
Talking of crushing defeats. Look at the Lib Dems. Sixth place, beaten by an Independent and the Green Party candidate. Polling 2.59% of the vote, losing their deposit (again) and only just barely making it into four figures in terms of votes. David Watts, the candidate, did graciously point out that the Independent candidate Paul Baggaley’s campaign, which was related to a local hospital and was something he supported. He also surmised that some who might have voted Lib Dem in a by-election might have voted Conservative to stop UKIP winning. But the truth is (as I fear here) that there is simply not many reasons to vote Lib Dem anymore.
Anyway – the results are below. Enjoy…but don’t jump to too many conclusions!
Newark by-election: result in full
Robert Jenrick (Con) 17,431 (45.03%, -8.82%)
Roger Helmer (UKIP) 10,028 (25.91%, +22.09%)
Michael Payne (Lab) 6,842 (17.68%, -4.65%)
Paul Baggaley (Ind) 1,891 (4.89%)
David Kirwan (Green) 1,057 (2.73%)
David Watts (LD) 1,004 (2.59%, -17.41%)
Nick The Flying Brick (Loony) 168 (0.43%)
Andy Hayes (Ind) 117 (0.30%)
David Bishop (BP Elvis) 87 (0.22%)
Dick Rodgers (Stop Banks) 64 (0.17%)
Lee Woods (Pat Soc) 18 (0.05%)
Con majority 7,403 (19.13%)
15.46% swing Con to UKIP
Electorate 73,486; Turnout 38,707 (52.67%, -18.69%)