Monday, April 22, 2024

Apathy and jam


Were Thursday’s by-elections really such groundbreaking results for UKIP?


In Clacton yesterday, the turnout was just 51% and at Heywood and Middleton it was a paltry 36%. Despite these figures being higher than the usual 30% turnout for by-elections, neither is illustrative of any kind of strong feeling for politics in England. Apathy, in fact, was once again the true winner of the day and the playing field of politics remains as open as before.


Whilst the turnout in the Scottish independence referendum was a staggering 86%, the two by-elections on Thursday did not provide a great deal to write home about. We cannot deny that undoubtedly the combination of both results represent a huge leap forward for UKIP: They gained an impressive 18% swing in Heywood and Middleton and the election of their first Member of Parliament in Clacton but, equally, one could argue that if they hadn’t won there, they won’t win anywhere.


Douglas Carswell: UKIP's first Member of Parliament
Douglas Carswell: UKIP’s first Member of Parliament

Clacton is an unusual constituency and one where Cliff Richard made his first ever performance. Its residents are primarily older, less well educated and more likely to be unemployed than the national average and these are the very people who UKIP have been able to enthuse with their populist soundbites. It is very easy to scaremonger and promise the earth, after all, when you know you’ll never command a mantle where you’ll have to actually have to deliver.


What is worth noting from both by-elections, however, is that the Liberal Democrats have been confined to the political dustbin for the time being. That they got just 483 votes against UKIP’s 21,113 in Heywood and Middleton speaks volumes and is indicative that they continue on a downward spiral from their trouncing at the European and local elections.


Equally, it wasn’t a great day for Labour despite their win in Heywood and Middleton. To have secured a majority of just 617 in a previously safe seat is certainly not worth celebrating and it shows that Ed Miliband has failed to resonate with the electorate.


For the Conservatives, though, this was the outcome they expected. They knew they’d lose Clacton because of Douglas Carswell’s personal popularity but to have been beaten into third place by UKIP in Heywood and Middleton is a disappointment. David Cameron needs to put his efforts into a win in the Rochester by-election when it comes and given that the appropriately named Mark Reckless lacks the same support as Douglas Carswell, he is certainly more likely to achieve a Conservative hold there.


An hour is a long time in politics and though Nigel Farage is now seizing his fifteen minutes of victory, it may just be that. Blink and the 2015 General Election will be upon us and with it the prolific blogger and jam maker Douglas Carswell will likely find himself on one of Norman Tebbitt’s metaphorical bikes off in the hunt of employment new. It is time to back a Conservative victory.



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    1. I am a UKIP member and I think this article is a load of crap. I am disgusted by you not accepting the victory for what it truly it is. This is history and we’re now on the road to what we need to do next. Britain needs to get out of Europe and stop the scroungers taking over our land. Nigel Farage is our saviour and Douglas Carswell is a hero this morning.

    2. OK – I’ll bite! I don’t think we should be too concerned over the UKIP win in Clacton, a town with a much higher population of retired people than most. I tweeted this earlier in the day:

      “You know when your Grandad says something that’s casually racist and you feel uncomfortable? That just happened with the whole of Clacton.”

      It seems to have rung true with people judging by the retweets it’s had.

      The people who should be really worried by this are the politicians of the main parties, who continue to dodge questions and treat the public with contempt in their answers while they also voice deep concern about voter apathy and “a need to re-engage people with politics”. Eric Pickles’ lamentable performance on Question Time last night where he plainly refused to answer a straight and pertinent question about the Conservative policy on private companies operating within the NHS is a clear example of this. People are attracted to UKIP as much for their appearance of honesty and plain-speaking as they are for their policies (It can’t seriously be their policies … have you seen them???)

      The main parties in Westminster should heed the warning being given … politicians with an all time low trustworthiness rating with the public should simply change their behaviour in debates and interviews and tell people the truth. That way sensible messages should get through to people and a trust in politicians can begin to grow again.

      So I don’t think that UKIP can expect any power based on this result. The more real the chance they have of being more than a protest vote – the more scrutiny the voting public will subject them to. And I have faith that the British public are not stupid enough to allow themselves to be conned into voting for a silly group of right-wing self-publicists with bonkers policies.

        • Labour narrowly held on to a safe seat in the north, Clacton is irrelevant, everybody expected a UKIP victory. The main political parties must accept that spin has lost its power. The days of the party spin doctor can fix it, is finally over. It is clear that BBC Question time carefully cherry-picked their audience for last nights broadcast.

      • Bite what?
        So are you are suggesting that retired people are thick because they happen to live in Clacton?
        Never have I read a more crass comment…..
        UKIP’s policies have been pretty well ventilated….total withdrawal from the EU; the re-establishment of grammar schools; the savaging of the overseas aid budget and a radical scaling back of immigration.
        If you like to imagine yourself as some sort of political analyst/pundit you might gain more respect if you opened your eyes a bit wider and understood that it is those policies that driveUKIP’s success.
        If you really aspire to assist the Tory Party you would be better off advising them to adopt policies that appeal to voters who have their feet firmly planted on the ground.
        It will be interesting to see what other rationalisations you come up with as UKIP continues to give the Tory and Labour Party’s bloody noses.

        • John Spiers argument is so familiar and predictable, he launches a attack on right wing ideologies and makes the argument that policies regarding organised and controlled immigration is bonkers. He still has the race card up his sleeve, ready to play. The main political parties must participate in self-reflection to determine the reason for the surge in UKIP popularity. Attacking Right Wing ideologies will make them no wiser. Get my drift, John? Forget the left wing and right wing bullshit, and try common sense, and experience the difference.

    3. The Cleggster is the piece of toast that passes all understanding

      Farage is inspired and wonderful, BUT he should be embraced by the Convarsative as he would then be inside the tent and makes great sense……..mostly

    4. A few comments back I suggested that UKIP ‘could’ support a semi broken Cameron attempt to government on a Confidence and Supply basis.
      Farage has now offered this so Mr Spiers what do you think about that….or don’t you agree Cameron should sleep with the enemy?


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