Yesterday we had two by-elections. Claction was an emphatic, walkover win for Douglas Carswell and UKIP, which was largely what everyone expected – he was particularly well regarded as an MP and the demographics of the seat could not have been better for UKIP. Heywood and Middleton was more of a surprise, many expected the seat to be a relatively easy Labour hold when in fact UKIP came within 2 points.

After every by-election you essentially see the same comments reading far too much into them, and I make the same blog post saying that by-elections are extremely odd events and you can’t read too much into them: they have low turnout, are in a single seat that will not be representative of the wider country, are far more intensely fought than normal election and, crucially, do not have any impact on who the government will be the next day. If by-elections behave like the national polls, they tell us nothing new. If they behave differently, it’s probably because by-elections themselves are very different.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely important, as they are. They help shape the political narrative and public opinion. While Carswell’s victory was broadly expected and costed in within the Westminster village, its getting huge coverage on the media now and I expect it will result in a boost for UKIP in the national polls. If you follow UKIP’s support in the opinion polls over the last few years you’ll see it’s a pattern of spikes in support from positive publicity, mostly as a result of electoral success (local elections, strong by-election showings, European elections), each time settling back at a slightly higher level. For a challenger party the big challenges are getting coverage, being taken seriously and being seen as a viable choice rather than a wasted vote. This will help them a lot – I’d expect a spike it in the polls, and it’ll be interesting to see which other parties they draw support from. On that issue, it will also be interesting to see how Labour react to the closeness of the result in Heywood, currently support for UKIP has disproportionately come from former Conservative voters and the Labour party seem to have regarded UKIP as their enemy’s enemy, but they also have the clear potential to draw support from more Labour demographics.

As this is a polling blog I should save my last comment for the polls. The two polls in Clacton, conducted by Ashcroft and Survation, were both conducted more than a month before polling day, so they cannot in all fairness be compared to the final result (opinion in Clacton could easily have changed in the interim period), for the record though they were both pretty close to the actual result, certainly they got the broad picture of a UKIP landslide correct. The two polls in Heywood and Middleton (conducted again by Ashcroft and Survation) are more worrying. They were conducted about a week and a half before the election – so there was time for some change, but not that much (and many would have voted by post before polling day). Both showed a nineteen point lead for Labour when in reality they ending up squeaking home by two points. In both cases the polls both overestimated Labour support, and underestimated UKIP support.

600 Responses to “Clacton, Heywood & Middleton”

1 10 11 12

    “RE: Footie Boards.

    It demonstrates just how little of politics is results-based, and how much of it is perception. A party can win an election and be hated all in the same week (although I suppose a team can win the treble and be hated by the opposition supporters).

    At least with football, the psychology has limits, and it’s the points that win prizes. Maybe party forums are similar to club forums.”


    There are differences between politics and club forums. One notable difference is that “banter” and ribbing etc. between rival fans is expected and even welcomed. People supporting a team are more likely to know each other in real life because going to the same matches, and if not, still have a lot in common since grew up in the same area.

    Nevertheless, you still get competing “ideologies” of how the game should be played, wishful thinking, all kinds of wrangling over predictions of results to come… People exchange what you might call lifestyle info. etc… but never saw anything about Thorium, Lidl or allotments etc., and any stats was pretty basic. You don’t tend to get football “activists”, though, determined to present their team in the best possible light and rebut any criticism, whatever it takes. For match results are determined primarily by goals scored rather than the perception of fans, whereas elections depend on perceptions of voters.

    At one point, wishing to escape the tribal stuff, I participated in a hifi forum. Now one might think, that hifi might not get as tribal or heated as football, but their were still competing tribes and ideologies… analogue vs. digital, one brand vs. another etc., juiced up by the presence of some sales and promotional people, roughly the equivalent of activists. There’s no escape…

  2. their = there

  3. “The 128 seat scenario is especially amusing because there is literally no way to make a stable government unless Ukip go into coalition”

    Why couldn’t we ‘do a German’ and have the biggest two parties go into coalition together for national stability? It would lose Labour a few more votes in Scotland, but in many ways would be common sense. Funny it’s never touted as a possibility by commentators although they often recognise that 2015 is likely to be a hung Parliament.

  4. @ MBruno

    “In the long run, like in other European countries where there are significant far-right parties, voters in select constituencies, regardless of their personal party preferences, will begin to vote strategically against the nationalist candidates.”

    The only problem with your view is that much of the public – including non-UKIP voting public – realise that UKIP aren’t a far-right party. Whilst they still have a few racist jerks lurking around who can still cause them embarrassment and lose them some votes by playing up to the Establishment’s stereotype for them, for the most part they’re basically a bunch of nonconforming teddy bears.

    In France also, le Front National – which is considerably closer to ‘far right’ than UKIP – they are winning seats in second rounds of voting quite often these days, ie they are picking up other parties’ voters – your view that the ‘anti’ vote is enough to keep them out is patchy across Europe and somewhat dated, probably because the said parties themselves have modernised and are seen to be more in step.

  5. The main reason I am dismissing Survation’s poll as too suspect is because of the dismal showing for ‘Others’ – 5/6% much lower than any pollsters have shown for literally years, and even less credible with the current SNP (and, to a lesser degree, Green) surge.

  6. If one is voting in a supplementary vote election but only one option is remotely acceptable, is the moral thing to only fill in a first preference or the first preference and the least worst party as the second?

  7. @Shevii

    Congrats on those school results Shev. Know what you mean about getting v. little shut-eye during Ofsted. Crazy system…

  8. LibDem surge to 9% in the last two YouGov polls…..

  9. @OLDNAT


    I’m frequently amazed by those of my generation who imagine that they have “earned” their current wealth, despite it often being due to happenstance.”


    Well according to some of ’em, they prevailed despite the enormous encumbrances of full employment, affordable housing, sane utility bills, free tuition, decent pensions, cheap privatised shares and carpet-bagging building societies, cheap buses and trains, wages that could support a partner staying home to bring up the kids etc. etc.

    (…and no VAT on storage)

  10. I still don’t think UKIP will do better than 10-15% in a General Election as they don’t have consistent or believable policies on major issues like the NHS. Their main effect will be disruptive, winning no more than a couple of seats themselves.

  11. A lesson from recent history…

    The latest UKIP surge in the polls is very reminiscent of ‘Cleggmania’ in 2010. With just 2 weeks to the GE of 2010 the LibDems surged to 32% in the polls yet a fortnight later at the GE it actually polled just 23.6% and won less seats than in 2005.

  12. The salience of immigration is such that UKip are unlikely to fade that much. Their rise isn’t simply due to exposure, or it would have dropped back to 3%. Electoral success first in Euros and now by-elections may convince others it isn’t a wasted vote so Ukip could again settle at a higher level than before.

  13. Cleggmania was a rapid burst, not the slow, steady increase which UKIP have had. And let’s be honest, the pissed-off left behind social conservative vote has been in the ascendant since the BNP breakthroughs in 2006. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s just now got to the point where it needs addressing properly.

  14. Re UKIP wasted?

    I’ve seen a list going around of 35 seats where UKIP are the main challengers (in a ‘vote conservative, get labour’ style) or better; 1st or second by polling. It does include some hopeless cases, them as 2nd being 50%points behind labour in Barnsley for eg, but I reckon there’s a possibility of the narrative becoming that it’s cons being a wasted vote in the north.

  15. In the absence of an AW round-up of the Sunday polls. could someone provide a summary? I, for one, would be extremely grateful.

  16. “The latest UKIP surge in the polls is very reminiscent of ‘Cleggmania’ in 2010. With just 2 weeks to the GE of 2010 the LibDems surged to 32% in the polls yet a fortnight later at the GE it actually polled just 23.6% and won less seats than in 2005.”

    It reminds me more of the SDP surge of 82/83. At one point however the SDP were the top of the opinion polls, however due to inefficient vote distribution they captured few seats at the ’83 GE.

    I expect the UKIP surge, if it continues, will result in much the same thing – a lot of second places, and very few MP’s.

  17. I reckon Andrew Bridgen is going to defect. No inside information. Just a hunch (and nothing remotely Tory-related on his Twitter for two weeks).

  18. @newforest politicalbetting , Mike Smithson’s blog, has a roundup

  19. BARREL

    A lesson from recent history…

    The latest UKIP surge in the polls is very reminiscent of ‘Cleggmania’ in 2010. With just 2 weeks to the GE of 2010 the LibDems surged to 32% in the polls yet a fortnight later at the GE it actually polled just 23.6% and won less seats than in 2005

    This is true but Faragemania looks more plausible now that they have a foothold in Westminster. Many people thought they end up with no MP’s after the election……6 months before the election and UKIP have slipped into Westminster in spectacular fashion.

    However I still have a feeling UKIP will be a busted flush and Faragemania will die out after 2015.

  20. Boris Johnson on Marr “My message to beloved kippers everywhere”


  21. “Permission to panic Mr. Mainwaring ”


  22. Mr Kellner just bets Mr Farage £1000 on live TV that UKIP won’t win 25 seats… It would appear that the Times splash was based on UKIP “internal polling”.

    Andrew Bridgen? Oh please! That would be great… But unlikely

  23. He’s my MP when I’m home, I wouldn’t call it great from my perspective (although I could offer you all excellent by-election tips).

  24. @Mr Nameless

    There was a little article in the Daily Mirror the day of the Heywood by-election about a Catholic church in Moston having to abandon night meetings because of the danger from unlicensed drinking dens. Not sure if Moston is in the constituency but it’s at least on the doorstep.

  25. Re the earlier posts on which PMs would be good at which job, Thatcher wouldn’t instinctively know how to put up a shelf but would be very competent at reading the instructions and would mange to do it to a reasonable standard in a parrot-fashion sort of way. Okay at babysitting as a slightly frightening version of Nanny Macphee.

    Heath was the son of a carpenter so should have some idea, but I would have thought would be hopeless as a babysitter.

    Major and Brown would be pretty good at both tasks (though Brown would get very angry with himself as he was putting up the shelf)

    But best of all would be Callaghan, who just had that air of a generally competent older man who just somehow effortlessly does DIY tasks without thinking about them (otherwise known as “your dad”).

    Wilson would have been okay but as he used to like tinkering with meccano sets (handy in both DIY and babysitting).

    However Blair and Cameron would be useless at DIY as it would be beneath them – they would always send for someone from the lower orders to do it and as for babysitting, Cameron did forget his child in a pub once didn’t he?

    Ed M will be okay at babysitting, being a bit of a new man but hopeless at DIY – but he would make a virtue of it telling everyone “look, I’m useless at DIY tasks aren’t I authentic?”

  26. And just to go with that story the New York Times has a piece on Flash masses, where in the US thousands of suburban Catholics are attending the struggling urban churches of their parents and grandparents.

  27. The Conservatives are like HMV, when they need to be like Spotify.

    Carswell on Marr.

    Bet that’s got them scratching their heads at Central Office.

    You have to laugh at some of this stuff.

  28. @ Paul A- lol- best one yet!

    Much would depend on how much of a fretty parent you were.

    If you were a worrier you would choose Thatcher every time- you know the baby/child would be safe and they might even do something educational. However an 8 year old child might be a bit glum at the end of the session when she didn’t let them have a sip of wine or play a fun game with fire and perhaps not even let them watch Simpsons. And she hated football as well so no staying up for Match of the Day.

  29. Not mentioned in the list but worth bringing up – I think Neil Kinnock would be a wonderful babysitter but would end up clocking himself in the head with the hammer if he tried to put up a shelf.

    Michael Howard would put the shelf up perfectly competently, but would give the children nightmares.

  30. According to YouGov, 39% of Conservatives in LD-LAB marginals would vote LD if only those two could win, while 6% would vote Labour.

    We need to find these 6% and study them.

  31. Survation poll on Daily Mail:

    Cons/Lab 31% each
    UKIP 25% (!)
    LD 8%

    not much worthwhile detail beyond that.

  32. Just out of interest, with regard to UKIP, I offer you my experience of UKIP voters based on my month or so of canvassing in Clacton:

    The people who said they were going to vote UKIP divided mainly into two groups. The first were those who went on about the number of immigrants in Clacton and the country. Clacton has absolutely no immigration problem but these people wouldn’t have it. There was a lot of “We need to get rid of these f***ing foreigners” from this type. When I pointed out that about 98% of the population of Clacton was white British, I was told I know nothing about Clacton and I should f*** off back to London! I would say these were mostly former BNP voters.

    The second group were much more reasonable and were voting for UKIP because they felt that both Labour and the Conservatives had let them down so they were going to try something new and give UKIP a chance. (Incidentally, a fellow canvasser told me that one person actually told her that as our Conservative MP had done nothing for the constituency for the last nine years she was voting UKIP this time!)

    There was another smaller sample of normally Conservative voters who said they just wanted to give Cameron a kick up the backside and would revert to voting Conservative at the General Election.

    Absolutely no-one I came across mentioned Europe!

    I think that with regard to that second group the similarities with the SDP in the 80s are quite striking. That was the same argument I came across then.

  33. BrianinBangor (from last night but I forgot to reply)

    Thanks – I forgot about McNarry having defected to UKIP. However I do wonder if he’ll get re-elected as a UKIP member in Strangford – he only came in sixth last time, so his personal vote can’t have been that great.

    And we’d both agree that with there being so many alternatives with a similar profile to UKIP in Northern Ireland it makes it very difficult to carve out a niche. You could argue that practically all NI Parties have the same socially conservative plus the state doing nice things for your supporters outlook. Being a UK Party and so seen as non-sectarian will pick up some people, mainly of non-NI origin and the very similarity will make it easier to pick up transfers, but you have to get a decent first preference vote to stay in the race long enough for that to happen.

    The East coast does seem to be where UKIP’s vote is though. (What is it about East coasts and UKIP?)

  34. @CARFREW

    “The salience of immigration is such that UKip are unlikely to fade that much.”

    General Elections are rarely (if ever) single issue campaigns. I don’t think that (or the EU) will be enough to give a party credibility as a potential government.

  35. Blair “sitting around and grinning smarmily while you did all the work”. Lol.

    Natalie Bennett though would be tearing up newspaper into a bucket of wallpaper paste… “A cardboard papier-mâché shelf would be way more sustainable.”

    Paisley’s response “Never, never, never!”

    George W trying to use your shelf as a ramp… before falling off his mountain bike.
    Clinton, Bush Senior and Carter in a huddle discussing what this means for the world, then going off for a round of golf. Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela watching appreciatively “Mmmm…. verrry good.”
    Gandhi sitting cross-legged “But are you really needing a shelf?”

  36. KeithP

    Survation poll on Daily Mail:

    Cons/Lab 31% each
    UKIP 25% (!)
    LD 8%

    not much worthwhile detail beyond that.

    And this children is why you should always read the last few pages of the thread. ;) (It was discussed last night).

    For convenience this is the link to Survation’s article:

    with a link to the data tables in the second line.

    It was taken entirely on Friday so with the Clacton result all over the media. There are also some fairly odd things in the details – though Survation has shown some of the highest UKIP ratings before.

    The main other notable thing was the concentration of Party leaders with 65 out 68 non-VI questions mentioning them. Such obsessional behaviour would lead to a restraining order for stalking in any other circumstances.

  37. @Rich
    Technically, it’s a personal attack on an ex party leader, and certainly nothing to do with polling….but is that any different to all the other posts on the subject, eg the immediately preceeding?

  38. “Farage would start ranting about Brussels instead of lifting a finger to help”

    No, no. Farage would get in a man recommended to him by his mate down the pub, cheap as chips and reliable. He would pay in cash and then deny all knowledge or responsibility once the man was revealed to be working in this country illegally.

  39. @Rich

    “This one is a disgrace!”

    Good grief. You cannot be serious.

  40. an irony of the UKIP surge is it seems it might be changing Labour policy away from what the core 35% want? EM is in a tricky position here one feels. (As is Cameron too of course…)

  41. @Rich

    I can’t see Ed changing policy.

    Trying to out-UKIP UKIP is a dead end. Its hasn’t done Mr Cameron any good has it?

  42. If you guys are saying UKIP remind you a lot of the SDP, you better start shaking in your boots as there will be no Falklands to save the Tories this time.

  43. I started reading at 10am, and it’s now 11.30am and I’m at the 10am posts (breakfast and sexy charts slow things up). Time to post.

    @Floating voter

    Regarding the surety of a chosen party. Aren’t they always subject to ‘events’? Or are we assuming that 85% of Lab / Con voters will not change over six months of events?


    “Now one might think, that hifi might not get as tribal or heated as football, but their were still competing tribes and ideologies… There’s no escape…”

    Indeed. Back in the beginning of my Internet days, I inhabited a PC hardware forum. Intel v AMD was normal. There were others, but that was the typical one. Whenever one side had a new model, it was “Intel is faster and runs cooler” with rebuttals of “AMD is cheaper for the speed”. Bother were right, and neither side had all the ammunition. A recipe for disagreement.

    @Far Eastener

    “I am dismissing Survation’s poll as too suspect is because of the dismal showing for ‘Others’”

    Fair point. Should be in the realms of 8-12%. 1% for PC, 3-5% for SNP, and 4-6% for Green.


    Without Cleggmania I think the Lib Dems would have been in the 15-20% realms, and Cameron would have been closer to an OM.

  44. Carswell doing the rounds this morning saying he has had a chat with a sitting Labour MP and it ‘looks very promising’ that they will defect to UKIP.

    This could be mischief making, and it’s certainly within UKIPs own interest to big up talk of anything that shows they threaten Labour, but equally it might just be talk.

  45. Question is, can they realistically keep Farage out of the tv debates now? What excuse is left open? They have seats at Westminster now, they are polling at 25% ie 1/4 are voting, and they only 6% behind the party in first place.

    I think its impossible now to see Clegg in the debate but not Farage.

  46. MitM
    Farage could take DC’s place as the latter seems to be highly reluctant to participate in the GE 2015 TV debates.

  47. Ukip defector William Cash, and son of Bill Cash MP, has written a long piece in the New Statesman about alienation of natural Tory voters in rural areas. William Cash cites the National Planning Policy Framework introduced 3y ago which ‘ripped up 50 years of planning law’. He writes:

    ‘This has led to rural voters waking up to the fact that the NPPF was a planning con, along with any claims for “localism”. The result is a near-permanent state of rural civil war with local villages and towns angrily divided between farmers/developers vs local communities/villagers.’

    Apparently, just 8m ahead of the GE, Eric Pickles has sent out a new guidance to Councils:

    ‘The new guidance from Pickles comes on the back of a new poll conducted last week by the Countryside Alliance (founded in 1997 and the largest rural affairs lobby with 100,000 members), to which I have been privy, which found 80 per cent of rural voters are now disenchanted with the Tories.

    The same figure was revealed by The Shropshire Star last week after they asked their 30,000 daily readers across the county where I live, asking if they thought the “government had let the countryside down”. This was following an open letter I wrote setting out why I was taking on the role of Ukip heritage spokesperson because of my concerns about Osborne’s bulldozers parked on every village green. The poll found 82 per cent of readers thought the Tory-led coalition had failed the countryside.’

    Obviously, these polls need to be considered with all the usual caveats. However, living in a very rural area myself …. having been involved in fighting more than three inappropriate planning applications in the last three years, and knowing the reaction of locals to the threat of Fracking under the village, the proposed development of flood plain fields for an estate of 3oo new houses, etc etc… I find such a level of disenchantment with the Tories unsurprising. It quickly becomes clear in objecting to any development, that the cards are even more stacked against the local community than they were under the previous legislation.

    Anecdotally, it was very noticeable in the run-up to the EU elections, that a majority of local fields sported purple hoardings rather than their previous blue ones.

    William Cash again:

    ‘When the first draft of the NPPF was published, the National Trust and the CPRE predicted what would be a death warrant for rural England. After three years of local planning wars, many rural voters no longer regard the party of Nick Boles (the former planning minister who wanted to develop National Parks) as the ‘party that now stands up for, and protects, the rural countryside and our built heritage.’

  48. New thread

  49. Michael Portillo
    Michael Heseltine
    Dennis Healy
    David Miliband

    Hope the shelf’s big enough. There’s just 4 heavyweights whose parties left them on it.

  50. Alec. Labour UKIP defection would seem implausible. With UKIP even more right wing than the Tories, Labour defectors would be abandoning not just their party, but about turning on pretty much every political belief they ever expressed. In my view, they would be lambasted for that far more than Carswell. Labour also polled in H&M at slightly higher percen than the last election. Regardless of whether that was core vote or red dems, it makes any defecting MPs job much harder, as it didn’t collapse like the Tory vote. .A personal vote is less valuable if your belief set has also flipped.

1 10 11 12