Newark by-election: will Ukip open the door to Labour win?

Nigel Farage might be on a roll – but his party is way behind in planning for this three-horse race

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:00 ON Fri 2 May 2014
Don Brind

THE Newark by-election, caused by the resignation of Patrick Mercer MP, has been called for 5 June. We know Nigel Farage himself will not attempt to take the seat from the Conservatives. So the big question is: who will Ukip field as a candidate and does he or she really stand a chance of winning the party's first Westminster seat?

As we've been told umpteen times, Ukip can expect to be on a roll by then: it will be less then two weeks after the votes are counted in the European elections, when the right-wing anti-Europe party is expected to triumph. 

Two out of three polls released this week have Ukip ahead of both Labour and the Conservatives in the Euro stakes. ComRes gives Ukip an 11 per cent lead over Labour while TNS-BMRM has them nine per cent ahead. YouGov has Ukip one point behind Labour but still six ahead of the Tories.

So far so encouraging for Farage. But the fact that Ukip has not yet named its candidate in the Nottinghamshire constituency is good reason for scepticism.

The Tory and Labour campaigns are already up and running in Newark. The Tories selected their candidate, Robert Jenrick, last year after Mercer resigned the Tory whip.

At that stage Mercer was merely under suspicion for taking cash for questions and had not yet been banned from Parliament – the humiliation that led to his resignation this week.

Labour picked their man Michael Payne a month ago.

The two big parties will field experienced teams who went head-to-head an hour down the A1 in Corby in November 2012 following Tory chatterbox Louise Mensch's decision to quit Westminster politics in 2012. That by-election was won by Labour (which could have a bearing).

Ukip's lead in the EU election polls is testament to the fact that its supporters are the most enthusiastic voters. A large slice of their support is older voters renowned for turning up at the polling booths.

There is, however, a world of difference between European elections and Westminster by-elections.

European campaigns are largely fought through the national media and the turnout is often as low as 25 per cent. This makes them ideal for Ukip and the blokish charisma of the party leader.

By-elections are enlivened by constituency visits by party leaders and front-bench stars but they are essentially street-by-street ground battles where the buzz words are voter ID, postal votes and GOTV (Get Out the Vote).

Success goes to the party with strong local roots, the most experienced professional organisers and the best volunteer activists. Good for Labour and the Conservatives. Bad for Ukip.

It’s true that Farage's party boasts two MEPs representing the East Midlands. But look closer at the 2009 European election results and the party’s share of the regional vote was just over 16 per cent - exactly the same as its national share of the vote.

This points to one of Ukip's biggest problems: its votes are spread evenly across the country. The established parties win because they gather their support in mountains and molehills.

At local level, both Nottinghamshire County Council and Newark and Sherwood District Council are Ukip-free zones. Between them, the two councils have more than 120 members: not one represents Ukip.

At the 2010 general election, Ukip polled three per cent in Newark - precisely 50 points behind Patrick Mercer for the Tories. Of course, Ukip will do better – much better - on 5 June, but a swing of more than 25 per cent is asking a lot.

Labour’s task looks easier. In Corby they won with a swing of 12.5 per cent from the 2010 general election result. In Newark they would need a 15 per cent swing.

That might sound like a mountain to climb. However, according to a projection by Electoral Calculus, Labour have dramatically narrowed the gap since 2010 because of Lib Dem voters - unhappy with their party sharing power with the Tories - switching to Labour.

With Ukip threatening to split the Tory vote, Labour could come through the middle and win the three-horse race in Newark. · 

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Can you please explain to me why wanting to have the laws that govern you being made by those who you elect is now a right wing ideology?

Ukip is anti-EU and not "anti-Europe", Mr Brind.

A quick reminder about the Tory MP who resigned - Patrick Mercer.

According to The Times, "The case of a disgraced MP who asked questions for cash is the worst breach of rules in modern times, the Commons sleaze watchdog has ruled. Patrick Mercer, who apologised and resigned earlier this week after it emerged that he would be suspended from the Commons for six months, was found to have “deliberately evaded” rules and carried out paid lobbying work for personal gain."

Who would want to vote Tory?

It is the Conservatives who are giving Labour a chance of winning the seat, not UKIP. And that also goes for the rest of the country.

Yet every single MP who has been jailed over recent sleaze allegations has been a Labour member.

You see what you want to see I guess.

If labour voters want to defeat the tories in newark, they should vote UKIP.

Why we would just be voting for anti-Union extreme Tory bigots.

I don't believe Labour will win this Newark bye-election. If they did Flashman Cameron should hand the keys of number 10 over to Ed Miliband, and disappear for the rest of his useless life.

Calm down old boy, it's called DEMOCRACY. You do sound rather a bitter and twisted individual.

I see them all, but we are talking about Newark.

To be fair to Mercer, he is a decorated soldier and probably just fell in with a bad lot.

He should have joined UKIP.

It looks like UKIP can not win but they can damage the useless Tory party . No matter which of the three EU puppets get in as they have all the same policies . Mass immigration , increased spending through borrowing , rule by EU diktat , ignoring their electorate etc .

No not bitter. I just don't like people with no idea how the other half live, giving lectures to the poorest in the land as to how they should behave.

"Between them, the two councils have more than 120 members: not one represents UKIP". And there lies the problem. They all should be representing the electorate not their own self-interest. Yet another band of troughers at public expense.

"By-elections are enlivened by constituency visits by party leaders and front-bench stars".
Are they really? When I was in my teens, politicos would publicise in advance visits from their "big guns". They would hold public meetings and even stand in the High Street on a box to harangue the crowd. Today they sneak in covertly for a photo-shoot in a hand-picked supermarket, a primary school or a factory surrounded by "rent-a supporters" and immediately vanish once the bullshit and the photos are complete. You will only find out they were in town through post-event press coverage.The last thing that big-shot politicians want to do is meet people who do not agree with them. Remember Brown and the "bigot lady"?

You should either meet a few UKIP people or stop reading the Daily Mirror.

What, like the millionaire Miliband? That public schoolboy Ed Balls? The aristocrat Harman? The real man of the people, millionaire "too cool for school", Spanish villa owning, Chukka Ummana?

Aren't most MPs bigots?
Something tells me you don't even know what the word means.

I don't understand why anyone would vote Labour.
They're clearly racists (Dianne Abbott), and totalitarian Marxists (Harriet Harman, Red Ed...)