The tide – or perhaps that should read tsunami – of Europhobic ranting and frothing from a significant part of the Fourth Estate has been washing over its readership for so long that one might think it would impact on the democratic process, and deliver success for a party that was unequivocally opposed to everything the EU did and stood for. We have such a party in the UK, and it’s called UKIP.
So now we have the results from three Parliamentary by-elections, all of them with lower turnouts than the preceding General Election. Those low turnouts can spring surprises, and offer a chance for a well-organised outsider to do well, and maybe even sneak a win. And UKIP has previously tasted success at elections for the European Parliament, so hopes were no doubt high.
Well, they might have been before the votes were counted: in Cardiff South and Penarth (sound familiar? That might be because it was represented for many years by former PM Jim Callaghan), UKIP got just 34 votes more than in 2010. True, their share of the vote more than doubled, but only because turnout more than halved. They were fifth in 2010, and fifth yesterday. No change there, then.
In Manchester Central, UKIP improved from sixth to fourth and tripled their vote share, but again, this was mainly down to an abysmal turnout of just over 18%. Even with what looked like a significant improvement, they lost their deposit. This minor misfortune also befell the Tories: indeed, apart from the victorious Labour candidate, only the Lib Dems avoided that humiliation.
And so we came to Corby and East Northamptonshire, with the Lib Dems this time being the ones looking to avoid the shame of a lost deposit, so much so that they demanded a partial recount as their vote came up a few short of the 5% line. Here, UKIP had high hopes of at least getting second place as unhappiness at Louise Mensch upping sticks to New York, and the Heaton Harris sting, took their toll.
But this was not to be: although the Tories got the kind of drubbing that will take some explaining – and will earn Chris Heaton Harris an Olympian size bollocking from Young Dave and his jolly good pals – UKIP were well back in third. As the party did not contest the seat in 2010, Nigel Farage will no doubt hail this as some kind of minor miracle before heading for the nearest pint of Landlord.
The real news is that Labour has achieved a swing of over 12.5% in Corby, far greater than national polls have suggested. Although some of that can be put down to the Mensch factor, the ineptitude of Chris Heaton Harris could just as easily have been a General Election factor had it been revealed early enough in the campaign. Tory stupidity and indiscipline could up-end their prospects next time.
But that shouldn’t make UKIP any more palatable, and it seems the voters agree.