UKIP’s lead in the forthcoming Rochester by-election has jumped eight points in a monthly repeat poll and now stand at 48 percent, indicating Tory defector Mark Reckless is set to retain the seat in three weeks time.
Nigel Farage’s Eurosceptic party is now a remarkable 15-points ahead of the Conservatives who formerly held the seat, who are now on 33 percent, down from the 49 they took in 2010 at the general election. Although this is bad news for the Conservatives, who despite having promised to “throw the kitchen sink” at the election to secure victory but who are believed to have privately admitted defeat, it is worse news for the other parties.
Labour’s support has almost halved in the constituency since the general election and they may be humiliated if the by-election reflects this polls figure of 16 percent. Even worse news for coalition partners the Liberal Democrats who polled just one percent, making it almost certain they will lose their deposit, another £500 thrown away for a party already battling with financial troubles.
What will be of interest to UKIP strategists is the diverse background of their newfound voters, many of whom would never have voted for former Tory Reckless while he wore a blue rosette. The poll shows that while nearly half of those who voted Conservative in 2010 will now vote UKIP, a remarkable third of former Labour voters have also decided to support the ‘people’s army’.
Losing two by-elections in former Conservative seats in a row would be humiliating for the Prime Minister, and there are already rumours of a back-bench plot to challenge the leadership, reports the Daily Mail. David Davis, two-time former contender for the party leadership is apparently seeking to trigger a decision before Christmas, even though a change at the top this close to a general election could spell disaster for the Conservatives.
The recent return to parliament by former Conservative Douglas Carswell went some way to vindicate the growing power of UKIP in British politics, however the strength of the ‘Carswell brand’ in his constituency, and nationwide as a noted Tory thinker has been credited with the success. If comparatively unknown MP Reckless can pull off the same trick, as is predicted, it may well trigger a renewed bout of soul-searching among the established parties.