Friday, 21 November 2014

My analysis of the Rochester and Strood by-election and the same-day local by-elections

Readers, in case you have not seen it already, the results from the Rochester and Strood by-election were as follows:

Mike Barker, Independent, 54 (0.13%)

Christopher Challis, Independent, 22 (0.05%)

Norman 'Hairy Knorm' Davidson, Official Monster Raving Loony Party, 151 (0.38%)

Jayda Fransen, Britain First, 56 (0.14%)

Stephen Goldsborough, Independent, 69 (0.17%)

Clive Gregory, Green Party, 1,692 (4.22%, +2.71%)

Geoff Juby, Liberal Democrats, 349 (0.87%, -15.5%)

Naushabah Khan, Labour, 6,713 (16.8%, -11.7%)

Nick Long, People Before Profit, 69 (0.17%)

Dave Osborn, Patriotic Socialist Party, 33 (0.08%)

Mark Reckless, UKIP, 16,867 (42.1%)

Charlotte Rose, Independent, 43 (0.11%)

Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative, 13,947 (34.8%, -14.4%)

Unlike with Clacton, it was not a foregone conclusion that Mark Reckless would win, even though all polls showed him ahead of the Conservatives. However, Kelly Tolhurst made several of the same mistakes as Eastleigh's Conservative candidate, Maria Hutchings (incidentally, I could briefly see Kelly with Maria during the live by-election coverage leading up to the result) despite being local and more genuine (Mark, by contrast, was not born in the constituency, is privately educated and an Oxford alumnus), by pandering to UKIP on immigration and by her terrible performance at the two by-election hustings. I greatly dislike both the Conservatives and UKIP, but I believe for the record that Kelly could have won narrowly had she not been so abrasive and argumentative.

I was hoping that we would save our deposit in this by-election, given how well we are doing nationally, but sadly that did not happen-maybe it is just the demographics of this seat.

The Liberal Democrats' vote share, by the way, is the worst for any major party in the entire history of the United Kingdom-not just since World War II, and is the very first time any of the three parties have polled less than 1% of the vote in a by-election. Quite frankly, the Liberal Democrats would have done better if they had not bothered to field a candidate in the first place.

And the answers to my five by-election questions about Rochester and Strood are:

1. If Mark Reckless wins, how much will he win by? He did win, of course, but only by 2,920 votes-a margin of only 7.3%.

2. Can Labour push the Conservatives into third place, given that there is more potential for them here than in Clacton? No, they finished third as they did in Clacton, although their performance was somewhat better.

3. Will the Green Party's Clive Gregory beat the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby, and will he save his deposit? He got almost five times the Liberal Democrats' vote, but sadly it was not enough for him to save his deposit.

4. Will the turnout remain as buoyant as Clacton's? Not quite-turnout for the Rochester and Strood by-election was slightly lower at 50.6%, a drop of 14.3%.

5. How well, or not, will the other eight candidates do? And who will get the (metaphorical) wooden spoon? Only one, the OMRLP's Hairy Knorm Davidson (who had actually achieved decent results by OMRLP standards back in Faversham & Mid Kent) got more than 100 votes; the other 7 candidates put together could not even achieve more than the 349 votes the Lib Dems polled. The wooden spoon went surprisingly to Christopher Challis, with a dismal 22 votes.

This was certainly an interesting by-election, with a wide plethora of candidates, although with a clear indication that the lessons of Eastleigh have not been correctly learnt just yet.

Meanwhile, there were three local by-elections going on-here are their results (NB: if you stayed up to watch the Rochester and Strood by-election live you will already know about one of them):

Medway UA, Peninsula: UKIP 2,850 (48.3%), Conservative 1,965 (33.3%, -20.9%), Labour 716 (12.1%,-8.5%), Green 314 (5.3%,-2.1%), Liberal Democrats 60 (1.0%, -5.3%)

Stockport MBC, Bramhall South & Woodford: Con 2080 (53.2%, +8.2%), Lib Dem 1502 (38.3%, +5.4%), Green 197 (5.0%), Lab 132 (3.4%, -5.5%)

Swansea UA, Uplands: Independent (Peter May) 671 (32.8%), Lab 533 (26.1%, -13.1%), Lib Dem 215 (10.5%, -22.2%), Green 179 (8.8%, -9.7%), Independent (Pat Dwan) 158 (7.7%), Con 154 (7.5%, -2.1%), Plaid Cymru 105 (5.1%), TUSC 31 (1.5%).

The fact that the Medway by-election occurred at the same time (although its declaration was one hour earlier) as the Rochester and Strood by-election gave a large boost to UKIP, even though the Peninsula ward is actually in the Gillingham and Rainham constituency nearby. As with the by-election, there was a large swing from Conservative to UKIP.

At least the Lib Dems have one crumb of comfort in the fact their vote share increased in Stockport's local by-election, partly because the Labour candidate was not local and did not campaign much (Labour have no realistic chance of winning in many parts of the borough of Stockport which are not in the city of Stockport itself; Bramhall is in the Cheadle constituency); we managed to finish ahead of Labour despite not having stood there before. Not all Liberal Democrat-strong territory is necessarily good for the Green Party, alas.

Meanwhile in Swansea, former Lib Dem PPC Peter May, who came only 504 votes short of winning the seat of Swansea West in 2010, won the 'naturally liberal' ward of Uplands, where the late great Dylan Thomas once lived. We Greens are recovering somewhat in Wales, but the intervention of Plaid Cymru (they did not stand here in 2012) split our vote when they could have supported us (Plaid Cymru is somewhat stronger in wards in Swansea East). Even for Swansea, the Conservatives' sixth-place finish, especially without a UKIP candidate in this by-election, is rather poor. As for Peter May, I suspect he would probably have become MP for Swansea West in 2010 if Charles Kennedy was still Lib Dem leader then and not Nick Clegg.

The Rochester and Strood by-election will probably be the last Westminster by-election of this parliament, with less than six months to go before the general election of 2015 takes place. In the meantime, the Green Party is getting more and more PPCs ready across England and Wales :)

Alan.

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