Newark by-election

Yesterday was the Newark by-election, a relatively comfortable hold for the Conservatives over UKIP in second place. When the by-election was first announced there was an obvious risk for the Tories – it was taking place at a time when UKIP would be basking in the glory of a successful European election, there was always that chance that they could have pulled off a surprise victory. In the event it never happened.

I expect to see lots of comment today about what Newark tells us about the state of public opinion. I’ll make my usual post by-election comment that it doesn’t tell us much at all. By-elections are extremely strange beasts that bear very little resemblence to politics as usual. They take place in but one constituency (which may be extremely unrepresentative of the country as a whole), they have no direct bearing upon who runs the country, only on who the local MP is (voters in Newark knew that whoever won, the next morning there would still be a coalition government under David Cameron) and they experience an intensity of campaigning unlike any other contest. Essentally, if voters at a by-election perform pretty much in line with the national polls it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, if they behave in a different way then it’s likely because of the extremely unusual nature of by-election contests.

It doesn’t mean that by-elections don’t have an important effect on politics – they do. If UKIP had won or been a closer second it would have continued the “UKIP earthquake” narrative. As it is I think it might start playing into a “UKIP faltering” sort of narrative. That wouldn’t really be fair – it was, after all, a pretty safe Conservative seat and UKIP increased their vote by 22% – but politics is not always fair.

I’ve also seem some comment along the lines of why Labour weren’t in contention, and whether it was a bad night for them. Realistically by-elections do tend to end up becoming a two-horse race – people rapidly identify who the challenger party is and it normally becomes a fight between them and the incumbent; Labour were just a victim of that. Of course, in a different situation Labour could have been the challenger party – Labour would have needed a swing of 16% or so to win Newark, the sort of swing that the Conservatives got in Norwich North and Crewe & Nantwich. The fact is though that we knew anyway that Labour weren’t in that sort of position – they aren’t an opposition that’s tearing away into the sunset, they are an opposition holding onto a relatively modest poll lead. In the present political context, we shouldn’t expect them to be competitive in a seat like Newark.

Finally a brief word about the polling. Survation released a second by-election poll yesterday evening (conducted before the by-election, but released after polls closed), which was almost identical to Lord Ashcoft’s a few days earlier. Both polls had the Conservatives on 42%, both had UKIP on 27% and both were relatively close to the actual result of CON 45%, UKIP 26%. Worth noting in particular is that both polls got UKIP right this time, when previous by-election polling has tended to underestimate their support.

340 Responses to “Newark by-election”

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  1. *Hannans*

  2. @ R&D

    For once, I actually agree with you – that is your comment at 11:20 am today.


    The Tories are currently seen as the Toffs’ party, which UKIP aren’t. Mrs T managed to move the Tories away from this image, but sadly it has returned.

    And its bye bye to the 2-faced BiBiDems, except in far flung backwaters like Ceredigion, Westmorland & O&S.

    @ Howard

    Merkel may sound pleasant (although that’s not saying much compared to previous Reichskanzlers), but she is an Iron Lady and the UK won’t get much change from her.

  3. It’s Shinz? Abe (I had to copy that but I did recognise him, so not so insular am I).

    I remember the ‘World according to Ronald Reagan’ map had his country depicted as a car with ‘Japan Motor Corporation’ written on it.

  4. Dao Dao
    Yes, if you look at the photos or her meeting Putin, the caption should be ‘If looks could kill’ (both of them!). I quite like her actually, in lots of ways.

    That o with a thingy above it came out as a question mark, I don’t know why.

  5. Someone is using a small charset, I noticed this when trying to post with cyrillic characters before.

  6. howard

    “Anybody know the answers?”

    Well, if it helps, I can make ’em up for most things.

  7. “@GRHINPORTS [Why oh why such a complicated moniker]
    Yes but,does the Tory party show any signs of doing it, and could they do it without ructions or defections to UKIP? As I understand it there are not many Ken Clarkes in the party these days but a lot of Dan Hannas.”


    Sorry about the name. Its my initials and location combined in shorthand.

    Im not so sure that there would be many Con to UKIP defections. Firstly the leadership seems pretty tied up with some sort of modernising program. Even if Cameron is gone after GE2015 the new leader is likely to be one of May, Osborn or Johnson and IMO none of these three are likely to zoom off to the right in an non-pragmatic fashion.

    Furthermore I think there has been a lot of posturing by Con MPs to about the EU and associated matters in an attempt to increase their popularity but really how many would defect from the large party to the new smaller party.

    The Dan Hannan’s and Douglas Carswell’s of the world are particularly tiresome because they want to have all these so called strong minded positions but at the end of the day they also want the shelter of a large political party. They are the Con equivalent of Lab’s Dennis Skinner and (when he was in the party) George Galloway. The effectiveness of all these characters on the political discourse is fairly muted in my view.

  8. R and D
    No it doesn’t, much, well not at all actually. I discovered Abe studied in USA briefly so I expect he gets by. I could not discover any exposure to English in Renzi’s past.

  9. Are Italians taught English in school? The only Italian person I know lives in Napoli and speaks near-native English despite only having been here a couple of times.

  10. @Mr Nameless

    I think it varies hugely from north to south. As it happens I went to Napoli last summer and some of the people who served us in restaurants, cafes etc could manage a bit of English when it became clear from our phrasebook Italian that we were English, but many people seemed to speak none at all. I remember reading an article about the Camorra that said some people in the most impoverished parts of Naples can’t even speak Italian very well, only Napuletan’.

    Educational attainment has always been masively higher in the north, so I’d imagine it’d be different up there. A former colleague of mine once spent a year in a northern city (can’t remember which one) and said they were almost as good as the Scandinavians.

  11. I agree with RAF’s post of 1:26. UKIP are unlikely to win any parliamentary seats in 2015 (under FPTP). Of the reasons RAF gives, only one is really under UKIP’s control at all, and that is that they could attempt to increase their low support among female voters. It remains to be seen whether they will try.

    I still think there is a good chance of Labour winning the 2015 election. UKIP will still probably damage the Conservatives more than they damage Labour, and the unreformed size of constituencies still gives a small advantage to Labour.

    Beyond this, if push came to shove, Labour could probably consider some sort of arrangement, short of coalition, with Plaid (3 MPs at present), and the SDLP MPs (also 3 at present).

    That is not to say that new parties cannot arise, or old ones die off – as Jayblanc reminded once has happened for example in Canada and elsewhere. A Labour government with a small majority might suit UKIP quite well in the long-term, but a lot of water to flow under the bridge before then.

  12. It seems to me that for a new party to ‘spring up’ there has to be an angle not previously exploited. Normally if there is a new bandwagon to be jumped on, one would have expected someone to have made the leap by now.

    If Miliband is reading the polls, one would expect him to make a bigger exploitation of women’s issues.

  13. My guess would have been that French and German would be taught in Northern Italy as standard and English simply picked up or possibly optional? Renzi has a ‘municipal’ background which is a bit parochial.

    On a personal note, it disappoints me that, AIUI, the last government was keen to abandon language teaching and made it optional. Big mistake IMO.

  14. @DAODAO

    Merkel may sound pleasant (although that’s not saying much compared to previous Reichskanzlers), but she is an Iron Lady and the UK won’t get much change from her.


    You do realise that the last Reichkanzler died in 1945 and Bundeskanzlers since then do not like being compared to that one.

  15. Howard,

    English is the language of international business.I have attended business meetings in many countries where negotiations are conducted entirely in English – even when I offer to speak their language.

    While some nationalities (you may guess which) may grumble about having to speak English rather than their own tongue, this is the reality of the modern world.

    Logically, any major politician should also speak English since they will want to meet with foreign business leaders in order to promote trade / investment.

  16. I believe Angela Merkel is a Bundeskanzlerin.

  17. “While some nationalities (you may guess which) may grumble about having to speak English rather than their own tongue,”

    Americans ?

  18. Postageincluded
    Dagestan? You beat me to it!
    I had difficulty getting my head round that. The languages seem completely different.

  19. So according to their political opponents, we have

    Lab voters voting UKIp say UKIp

    Lab voters voting LD to keep the Cons out say the LD’s

    Lab voters voting Con to keep UKIp out say the Cons

    i think I am seeing a pattern here.

    With al these Lab voters supposedly choosing every other party but Lab, I am surprised Lab has any voters at all.

  20. Speermint,

    Re Kinnock 01 as you put it.

    Only partially helpful as we now know polling methodology was somewhat inaccurate at that time.

    Also Westland in early 2006, led to dire ratings for Thatcher and the Government which took several months to unwind.
    Labour misread these polls becoming a tad complacent as the fundamentals were pointing to a conservative recovery which Labour were slow to recognise and therefore slow to try to at least combat.

  21. I now find the Daily Telegraph has joined the BBC in its PC reporting. Apparently, the allied troops who landed in Normandy 70 years ago, faced “Nazi’s”. My understanding has always been that these troops were German. We even have “Nazi” U Boats, “Nazi” bombers and “Nazi” E Boats. Did we have “Tory” Spitfires, “Labour” Typhoons and “Republican” Sherman tanks ? How about “Lib – Dem ” barrage balloons.

  22. roland

    I agree with you and have felt for a very long time – without any antipathy whatsoever to my many German friends – that that nation was fortunate to be able to lump everything from concentration camps and mass exterminations downwards to a special brand called “Nazis”.

    There is clearly truth in the narrative but – as you say – not everything. When it came down to it they were all German. The best you could say is that it must have been bloody hard to say “Actually, d’you mind if I don’t join in?”

    Having said that I am very aware of how the modern Germany feels about that and believe that was a major part in the formation of the EU, which Churchill and then Ted Heath so strongly supported, having both had great experience of the conflict, albeit in very different roles.

  23. Roland – agree with you.

    Also inadvertently labels all German soldiers as Nazis many of whom weren’t.

  24. ROLY

    Did you see the story of the 89 year old Veteran Bernard Jordan who “absconded” from his care home to join the proceedings in Normandy.

    The interviews with him& his reception from his care staff when he got back were truly wonderful. Tear jerking I must confess.

    The Ferry company which brought him back has given him a lifetime free pass to Normandy-bloody fantastic.

    When he said he wanted to go , his care home rang the British Legion who are reported to have said there were “no more places” left ( which is why he went under his own steam) Can you believe that?

  25. RH
    A good point,well made.

    Godwinian agreement from the Buffers !

  26. @ COLIN
    Bless his heart, he proves you cannot keep a good man down.

    The episode reminds me of Major John Howard who died aged 92 a few years back. Maj Howard led the 2 Ox & Bucks light infantry, in gliders to capture the vital bridge which became known as Pegasus Bridge, on 6th June 1944. Throughout WW2, he must have been in mortal danger dozens of times. However, a health visitor scolded him, when aged 89, for having egg bacon and sausage for his breakfast everyday.
    He gently explained that he had been on borrowed time for 70 years.

  27. An interesting perspective on the UK and the EU from a former French PM was published yesterday in the Guardian at:

    The recommended comment (from Yes PM) is also very prescient.

    Even a quick look at history reveals that the standard British policy for hundreds of years has indeed been to prevent a single unified powerful opposing state in its near abroad – that was partly what WWII was about.

    It is the same perspective that motivates Putin’s attitude to the EU’s meddling in the Ukraine, pro-EU neofascists in Kiev and its new chocolate magnate “president”.

  28. You might not like Poroshenko but he IS the president. It’s like me calling David Cameron the “prime minister”.


    Last week’s Mirror included a reprint of its edition from 7 June 1944 in which the Germans were simply referred to as ‘the Hun’.

  30. @DaoDao

    I once said to my Dad –

    there’s been Britain and Germany against France, and there’s also been Britain and France against Germany, but never France and Germany against Britain.

    The first two worked for us, but the last one? I’m not in a rush to try it.

  31. Good Evening All.
    Much less important than D Day of course.

    Has anyone seen the Gove-May news?

  32. @ KeithP

    Effectively that was the situation from mid 1940 to mid 1944 (Vichy was the legal government of France) and it needed massive American support to make the Normandy battle a success.

  33. ROLY

    Great story.

    These modest, dignified, cheerful old men, who were so unbelievably brave when they were just as old as my eldest grandchildren have such a quiet determination about them.

    We won’t see their like again Roly.

  34. @Daodao – personally, I didn’t find that comment from a former French Pm remotely interesting. It’s what French federalists have been saying for years, even while their own people turn progressively less and less federalist.

    Blaming the Brits for EU failures is a neat way to divert attention from certain other failures. Such as the French insistence that the CAP is protected – the biggest single expenditure item within the EU and one which greatly harms the efficient functioning of agriculture and helps starve other people living in poor countries outside the EU.

    One could point to the French insistence that we have two EU headquarters, because they couldn’t bear to think that it might not be in France.

    Or one could point to the French insistence that they would only accept German reunification if they agreed to the Euro – a French project, not initially wanted by the Germans – but where the French accepted an inferior fiscal structure as part of the deal, because the Germans point blank refused to give up the Bundesbank. [Don’t blame the UK for the Euro fiasco – like much of the EU architecture, that was a French dream].

    The history of the EU is largely based on a desire for French aggrandisment and a perceived need to hold Germany close, aided by the guilt of Germans leading them to seek to subvert their own nationalism into a grande alliance.

    The French have always resisted UK influence in the EU, because they wanted to be the biggest beast. They’ve lost that prize to Germany, but they still fear the UK.

    And having the French criticise the UK for maintaining a desire to pursue the national interest is frankly laughable.

  35. @Colin
    Indeed not, their outlook on life was very different .

  36. “You might not like Poroshenko but he IS the president. It’s like me calling David Cameron the “prime minister”.”

    Well said “Mr N.”

  37. Blimey Alec, you’ll have us hanging monkeys next. What’s the French version of Godwinian thrread developments.

  38. I’ve popped in in between the motor racing and it has been an entertaining dog watch thread, thanks.

  39. @ Alec

    I didn’t state that I agreed with M. Rocard – I was merely publicising his views. So who would you like to be the next EU president – Mrs Kinnock ?!

  40. @DAODAO: “Effectively that was the situation from mid 1940 to mid 19444 (Vichy was the legal government of France) and it needed massive American support to make the Normandy battle a success.”

    Vichy was recognised as a legal government only by the Axis powers and even then only of the Vichy zone. It was of course, just a puppet regime under German control. On D-Day the majority of the troops were British or Canadian; it was only later that the Americans became the dominant land force.

  41. @ RogerH

    Other governments in countries overrun by the Germans in WWII relocated (often to the UK), e.g. that of Poland. Polish airmen played a key role in the Battle of Britain and it was the Poles who captured Monte Cassino.

    In contrast, the French signed an armistice and most French politicians and government officials (not just Laval) collaborated with the Germans (even Mitterand did so as a junior official). The “free French” were the rebels and were few in number.

  42. @ RogerH

    The USA maintained diplomatic relations with Vichy at least until December 1941.

  43. Cheese eating surrender monkeys-to coin a phrase.


  44. @Daodao

    “…Vichy was the legal government of France…”

    The Churchill government and the de Gaulle government-in-exile are on the phone. They want to point out that the Vichy government was de facto, not de jure, and was unrecognised as the government of France by the British Empire

  45. @DaoDao

    The point is there was no situation in which Britain was facing a Franco-German alliance.

  46. @Daodao

    “…The “free French” were the rebels…”

    That was certainly the position of the Hitler government. It is not however the position of the Churchill government, who did not regard the Vichy government as legitimate.

  47. @DaoDao

    There were almost half-a-million men in the Free French army by mid-1944 increasing to 1,300,000 by the end of the war.

  48. @ Martyn

    de Gaulle did not lead a “government in exile”, he led a rebel force and was naturally supported (even though he was a difficult man to work with) by the British. All the French overseas territories initially chose to remain loyal to the French republic based at Vichy and had to be liberated by Allied forces, with free French support on some occasions. IndoChina remained under Axis control until the end of WWII.

  49. Alec

    We don’t often agree about UK politics but I totally agree with your summary of French attitudes to the EU, in your response to Daodao.

  50. @ RogerH/Martyn

    So I presume you would equally say that Al Nusra is the legal government of Syria?!

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