The Labour candidate Sarah champion romped home in first place in Rotherham, increasing the Labour share of the vote by 1.62% since the 2010 General Election, despite the disgrace of the former MP Denis MacShane, the Muslim grooming scandal and most recently the furore surrounding the local social services’ decision to remove three foster children from a couple simply because they were members of UKIP. UKIP nonetheless did manage to provide their best ever performance in an election for a Westminster seat, coming second and securing 21.79% of the vote, up 15.87% since 2010. It thus seems that Nigel Farage’s assertion during the count that UKIP were running “a close second” was the product of a liberal dose of wishful thinking. Still, the fostering scandal does appear to have imparted a significant boost to UKIP in the seat, but this marks their likely high watermark in Rotherham, given that the party represents the Atlanticist Thatcherite wing of the Conservative Party in exile, and Rotherham is most certainly not natural Tory territory.
The Conservatives polled a miserable fifth place, taking only 5.42% of the vote, down from 16.7% in 2010 when they were the second party in the seat. This switch of allegiance appears to underscore the recent fears voiced by a number of Conservative MPs with respect to the potential for a stronger UKIP to dent their vote in many marginal seats and thereby let Labour win, prompting calls for an ‘electoral pact’ involving the promise of an EU referendum that Nigel Farage has declined to entertain.
However, if last night’s result in Rotherham was adjudged to be a bad one for the senior partner in the Coalition Government, it was a catastrophic one for the Liberal Democrats, who were pushed into eighth place in Rotherham, taking only 2.11% of the vote, down from 16% in 2010 when they came third. This meltdown in the party’s support was paralleled in yesterday’s two other by-elections, most notably in Croydon North where they came fourth with 3.5% of the vote compared to the 14% and third place that they secured in 2010, and in Middlesbrough, where although they came third, their share slumped from 19.9% to 9.9%. Just how ‘sorry’ must Nick Clegg be feeling now? Following on from the three dire results in the crop of parliamentary by-elections earlier this month the Liberal Democrats are currently set firmly on course for electoral annihilation at the next General Election. What, if anything, could the Liberal Democrats do to reverse this precipitous decline in their fortunes?
Having noted the electoral failure of the two parties of government in Rotherham, who benefited other than UKIP? Although the BNP took third place with 8.46% of the vote, this was down from 10.4% in 2010, with this respectable placing in the table being to a considerable extent attributable to the visibility and relative popularity of local candidate Marlene Guest. She certainly fared better than fellow BNP political hopeful Peter Foreman who stood in Middlesbrough, who took only 1.9% of the vote, compared to the party’s 5.8% in 2010. The fall in the BNP’s share displayed in Middlesbrough is more typical of the results achieved by the BNP over the past couple of years, which has seen the party in headlong decline. It is not an exaggeration to state that the BNP is on a terminal trajectory, having lost most of its membership as well as the majority of its more competent organisers.
Coming in fourth place behind the BNP was Muslim convert and apparent Stockholm Syndrome sufferer Yvonne Ridley who stood for Respect and took an 8.34% share. This was the first time that the party had stood in Rotherham, and the share of the vote obtained suggests that Respect bagged the Muslim bloc vote in the borough and little else, for it is said that the original Labour candidate mooted for the by-election had been a Muslim, but following the recent Muslim paedophile grooming scandal in the borough, Labour had decided that it would be impolitic to field a Muslim. According to the UK Polling Report blog, Rotherham’s Muslim population stood at 5.4% in 2001, and it has certainly increased since then and would thus easily have been able to furnish Respect with the share of the vote that it obtained. Respect also fielded a reasonably high-profile candidate in Croydon North – Lee Jasper – a former confederate of Ken Livingstone and Director for Policing and Equalities for the GLA in 2004-2008. However, this professional race hustler managed to secure only sixth place with a 2.9% share of the vote, this poor showing most likely being a reflection of the fact that Croydon North is not natural Respect territory (i.e. it does not possess a large Muslim population that can be electorally mobilised) and allegations of cronyism have also previously been levelled against Jasper.
The turnout in Rotherham was low, a mere 33.89% compared to 59% in 2010. Likewise, the turnouts in Middlesbrough and Croydon North were poor: 26% and 26.53% respectively. So, although these by-elections each provided Labour with a secure victory, the imaginations of voters were certainly not set aflame; they do not seem to have kindled any real enthusiasm. Ed Miliband must be hoping that his party can continue to ride the wave not so much of popularity, but of disillusion with the Condem Government, until May 2015. However, it is striking that he and leading Labour light Ed Balls were cabinet members in the last Labour Government, the administration that helped to plunge us so deeply into the economic, social and constitutional mess that we currently find ourselves. Automatic tribal party loyalty evidently played the greatest role in ensuring that Labour won by a large margin in all three seats, and it is this sort of loyalty that has thus far militated against the emergence of any new electorally successful parliamentary parties in England in recent decades. If real political change is to be brought about, this species of party tribalism - particularly of the Labour variety - needs to be challenged and broken down.
UKIP will soar no higher in Rotherham, for its globalist Thatcherite economic policies preclude a wide appeal to the electorate, and this observation applies to the country at large. UKIP did also manage to take second place in Middlesbrough with 11.8% of the vote, up from 3.7% in 2010, and third place in Croydon North with its share increasing from 1.7% in 2010 to 5.7%, but what these results suggest is in line with national opinion polls that have recently seen UKIP vying for the position of third party with the Liberal Democrats. What was witnessed yesterday therefore, may lead Nigel Farage to issue a call akin to David Steel’s infamous “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government!” but in reality, this will most likely amount to “Go back to your constituencies and prepare to take third or fourth place in a few Westminster seats in the West Country in 2015!” Yes, we do need to leave the EU, but UKIP is a single-issue exiled rump of the Conservative Party, and exiting the EU is not at the top of the average voter’s list of policy priorities. What we require is a new non-globalist party capable of breaking through in seats such as Rotherham, which whilst including departure from the EU as a policy pledge, concentrates instead on the matters of greatest concern to the electorate: the economy, health, education, transport, law and order and immigration.
UKIP's Rotherham Candidate: Jane Collins