The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has yet again taken second place in a by-election in the north of England following the death of Labour Member of Parliament Paul Goggins.
Results from the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election in Greater Manchester came in moments ago, with the Labour Party expectedly taking first place with 55 percent of the vote share, with UKIP second on 17.8 percent and the Conservative Party behind them on 14.3 percent.
The Liberal Democrat Party, the junior party in Britain’s coalition government, performed embarrassingly (as expected), with just 4.9 percent of the vote.
The results will also concern the Conservative Party, which has been pushed into third place yet again, following similar performances in the South Shields (May 2013), Eastleigh (Feb 2013), Manchester Central (Nov 2012), and Barnsley (March 2011) by-elections.
But while UKIP has been attracting support from the disillusioned Conservative Party backers since its inception, it has now been luring voters from the left, too–a fact that the Labour Party has clearly sought to address by hurrying along the dates of certain by-elections (as the incumbent party) and relying heavily on postal votes to tip the balance.
The postal turnout in today’s by-election was 40 percent, and the method has accounted for over half of all votes in previous by-elections.
UKIP’s Nigel Farage argues that the historically short campaigning period (only three days, in this case) means that the election is basically a “stitch-up” for Labour, whose activists flood the streets to help people fill out and file their postal ballots.
Farage recently said: “Labour has realised it cannot win the arguments with UKIP on big issues such as immigration and job opportunities for young people. So it is using its machine, sponsored by the trades unions, to stitch up votes before the electorate has had a chance to weigh up the issues and hear all the candidates in by-elections make their pitch.”
And while Farage may have a point, there is no doubt that UKIP needs to better oil its own election machine rather than lamenting the fact that the victor has a superior model.
The Conservative Party will wish to remain as quiet as possible over the next few days, and the Liberal Democrats… well, no one cares.
UKIP will no doubt try and play up the fact that another second-place finish shows that they are serious players for what would be their first seat in Parliament in the 2015 General Election. At 17.8 percent, UKIP performed slightly better than expected, and all this without any real previous local presence.
The fact that immigration is now British voters’ number one concern alongside the economy could have something to do with this. Or of course, UKIP could just be the latest protest party. Only 2015 will truly tell.
P.S. I did warn you that the Conservative Party’s ground game in Wythenshawe was lacking, did I not?