HEYWOOD, United Kingdom – As exhausted and jubilant UKIP activists head to bed after two hard fought campaigns, they face a very sobering thought: the party’s strategy over the last few weeks probably cost them a seat. From the outset UKIP had thrown money and people at Clacton despite being 40 percent ahead in the polls, resources that would have won them Heywood and Middleton.
Elections are not about the vote share, or the polls, they are won and lost in 650 individual constituencies. When Patrick McLoughlin won West Derbyshire by just 100 votes in the 1986 by-election he famously commented that he’d received 99 votes more than he needed. And he was right, there are no prizes for big majorities, the only thing that counts is the number of MPs.
If McLoughlin had been a UKIP strategist perhaps he might have gently pointed out that pounding the streets to secure Carswell a 12,404 majority was madness if it meant John Bickley lost Heywood and Middleton by 617. As soon as UKIP knew they would win Clacton – ie the minute the first poll came in – they should have moved their big guns to back Bickley.
So why was Farage in Clacton on polling day? Why did they get the most money? Why was manpower not turned away?
The answer is probably that they just could not quite believe that Clacton was really going to come in that strongly. The whole thing did seem too good to be true, but that’s where leadership comes in. Someone within the UKIP machine should have had the strength of character to tell the party to leave Carswell to his own devices.
Abandoning Carswell would have felt like a dangerous gamble but it really was not. Carswell was a winner from day one and throwing resources at him only served to boost his majority from big (which it would have been) to enormous (which it eventually was).
UKIP’s electoral breakthrough is historic but it also came on a night that bad management cost the party a seat. Heywood and Middleton was the Cinderella of UKIP’s by-election planning, but it wouldn’t have turned into a pumpkin had it been given the resources it needed. Resources that UKIP had, but chose to waste in Clacton.
As reported on Breitbart London yesterday UKIP did leave Labour shocked by what they threw at Heywood and Middleton and coming a close second was clearly huge for them. But with a majority of just 617 they also know that it could have been won had they done that little bit more.
If UKIP is going to take its next step to become a major player at the House of Commons it cannot afford to lose seats because of poor more mistakes like this. After all the party should have twice as many MPs as it does today!