So the result has been announced and the spinning has started: the Tories held on to Newark-on-Trent in yesterday’s by-election, with Robert Jenrick (a most deserving recipient of the nickname “Robert Generic”) securing a majority of over 7,000. This was down from the 16,000 garnered by Patrick Mercer in 2010, but more than enough to see off Roger Helmer of UKIP.
Squeaky failure finger up the bum time
Armed with this victorious result, the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, went on the Radio 4 Today programme and generated a straight-A f*** off moment of jaw-dropping brass neck when he asserted this was “disastrous” for Labour, as the party had won the seat in 1997. That was when there was no significant UKIP vote, and there was one other minor difference.
The constituency boundaries have been changed since Tone’s landslide finally ended the years of “Shagger” Major: in the north, the town of Retford, which votes strongly Labour, has been moved to the adjacent seat of Bassetlaw, and to compensate for this loss, the area around Bingham, to the south of Newark, was brought in. Hence the Tories winning the seat in 2001, and retaining it since then.
The idea that Labour should have won, despite UKIP enjoying a high profile in the wake of elections to the European Parliament (EP), is bunk. But it shows that the Tories are now looking to next year’s General Election and therefore slinging as much mud at Mil The Younger and his team as they can muster, knowing that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers will fare less well then.
What Osborne, new MP Jenrick, and party chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps will not want to talk about is that their vote declined by almost twice the percentage loss experienced by Labour, despite the flooding of the constituency by all those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed activists, something which will not be happening anywhere in the UK next June. Nor does UKIP have anything to crow about.
George Eaton at the Staggers observed “Labour MPs who visited the constituency told me that they encountered a significant number of traditional centre-left supporters who held their noses and voted Conservative on the grounds that it was the best means of stopping Farage's party. One voter compared it to backing Jacques Chirac against Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 French presidential election”.
Moreover, support for UKIP among women voters was estimated by one pollster to be as low as 17%. The party’s campaign will not have been helped by selecting the antediluvian Helmer as its figurehead – nor by Farage being absent on a jolly in Malta while his foot soldiers were trudging the streets of the constituency. The upshot is that UKIP is still to experience its Orpington moment.
We may have witnessed the high water mark of the Kippers. Good thing too.