In the end the Rochester & Strood By Election might have sent a message to Westminster ahead of the general election in the UK set for May 2015, but what was it?
The somewhat staid and stuffy world of British politics has been facing an unprecedented challenge to the status quo the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1980s. The two party dominance that has so long seen power bounce back and forth between the Labour and Conservative parties was barely shaken by the emergence of the SDP and its morphing into the Liberal Democrats, but three decades later they held the sway of a hung parliament and entered government with the Tories.
Of course that proved to be a toxic decision for Nick Clegg and his party who have seen public support slump to an all time low. With UK gambling laws permitting betting on politics there have been more than a few smirks at the fact bookies will give you far better odds on an alien invasion than a Liberal Democrat government. However the hung parliament itself was a worrying sign of the possible breakdown of majority government in the UK. A rare beast in the past more than a few commentators are now openly worrying about further hung parliaments ahead.
The general election in May 2015 is set to be a battle between a sitting Conservative government with whom just about everyone is dissatisfied and a Labour Party opposition who are led by the least charismatic politician the media has ever gotten it’s vulturous little fingers on. Were it not for that deficiency in leadership the chances are Labour would be due an easy victory but with a man in charge famed for being unable to eat a bacon sandwich properly, the results are by no means guaranteed, and it is against this background that UKIP and the Lib Dems retain hope of influence.
Most Liberal Democrats rue the day their party leadership entered into a coalition with the Conservative Party to form a government. Their junior role apparent, and their betrayal of some of their core campaign promises – most notably on tuition fees – left their supporters less than supportive to the point where in Rochester & Strood the Liberal Democrats lost their deposit, perhaps the most galling thing that can befall a major UK political party in a by election, their candidate failing to garner enough support to warrant their inclusion.
UKIP Wins Second Seat In Parliament
UKIP on the other hand are, they would claim, on the rise. The single issue party led by the hopelessly populist Nigel Farage has seen a swelling of support across the country as the right-wing media have continued their demonetization of immigrants and immigration, stoking support for this party of but one policy, a policy they constantly need to clarify the more ridiculous it seems to become. Usually there would be no room in British politics for this very narrow appeal but the major political parties have failed to see off UKIP, instead, encouraging them, if only by their own silly failures of common sense.
By Election Hello UKIP
- UKIP win in Rochester & Strood by 2920 votes
- Turn out was low at only 50.6%
- General election next May their next target
Internet betting in the UK had the result pegged ahead of time, of course, and so the UKIP victory in the Rochester & Strood by election was by no means a surprise, however the celebrations of Mr. Reckless’ victory were paraded for the media by a party hoping to build some momentum that will sustain it over the fallow months around Xmas and New Year before the election cycle kicks off for real. However whilst UKIP assure us this is a sign of things to come and that they’ll be challenging for seats across the country in May, can they really have an effect on a general election?
The fact is the two seats they have in parliament at present were more stunts than elections. In both cases a sitting MP simply swapped parties, both jumping ship from the Conservatives and signing up with UKIP, then running in the by election they themselves have just caused. Being locally known and each running against a Conservative candidate that represents the government no one is happy with pretty much guaranteed each the win. By elections typically return results against sitting governments so was this really the earthquake in British politics or just another protest vote?
In Rochester & Strood the turn out barely tipped over 50% and perhaps some consolation can be drawn by the Westminster parties from that, but how many seats would UKIP need to win not to form a government but to hold the balance of power when the results are in and we’ve another hung parliament in the UK? UKIP came second in the Labour stronghold of Heywood & Middleton, so it’s not just Conservative seats they’re challenging for, and every Lib Dem seat is open to question given their current malaise, but can they really gain enough support across the country to play kingmaker in May?
Labour Loses Attorney General In Rochester & Strood
The Rochester & Strood by election itself was a night of high drama, partly because of the closeness of the vote, UKIP winning by only 2920 votes in the end, partly because of the presence of Mr. Farage who is a walking media circus, but mostly because what should have been an almighty kicking for the Conservative government was deflected at the last minute by the Labour Party who despite coming a miserable third managed to lose a front-bench member of their party in the process, in what has to be one of the most ridiculous indications of our political future ever.
Emily Thornberry, Shadow attorney general, resigned after a backlash online against her having tweeted a photo of a house in Rochester & Strood. The house was one of many similar to it, save for the large flags of St. George draped across it, and the large white van parked in the drive. She captioned it simply “Image From Rochester”. It will be impossible for those of you outside the UK to understand why she was then decried as being snobby and upset her party leader so much she had to resign, but it all did come to pass. Labour losing one of it’s better talents to an internet reaction to but a single tweet.
UKIP’s victory might worry the parties a little, but single tweets now being cause for resignation? This was of far greater concern. So disenchanted with their politicians are the British public that now apparently even the tiniest misstep is to be greeted with the baying mob demanding a head, and that will make this general election even more tense than it was due to be before. Already online casinos in the UK like Bet365 are offering the same odds on both Labour and the Conservatives winning, with UKIP at 40/1 and the Liberal Democrats slightly less likely to win than Ghengis Khan at 500/1.
So we’re all set for one of the closest races in British political history, with the Conservatives defending their record, the Labour Party defending their leader and the Liberal Democrats defending the indefensible. UKIP will try to muscle in using the popular press and media coverage but in this one-strike and you’re out world of the internet reaction there’s more than a fair chance they’ll self-destruct in a blaze of stupid statements by their party workers. Meanwhile the spectre of a hung parliament remains and everyone in Britain will be gambling news on the day after the election isn’t that of minority governments at the whim of UKIP.