Newark by-election: what it tells us

The result of the Newark by-election is in and the media’s talking heads and the analysts in the parties are scurrying around trying to draw conclusions and pointers from it.

While there is much talk of halved majorities and the UKIP ‘surge’, it would actually appear, going deeper than the superficial glance  some normalcy is returning to Newark and the overall result is noteworthy for slightly different reasons.

All the analysis and reporting focuses on comparions between this by-election and the 2010 General Election.  But this ignores the exceptional circumstances of 2010 – where the least popular government in modern history hemorrhaged votes and seats, everyone in the bubble seemed to agree with Nick which boosted the Lib Dem share of the vote and despite the Tories being hot favourites to win, they had already conspired to underperform due to late policy reversals by Cast Iron Dave.

It would seem far more realistic, with the Tory-led coalition being unpopular and Labour doing OK in the polls, to look back at previous elections in the constituency to give a more ‘business as usual’ look.  Combining the elections in 2001 and 2005 gives us an average vote for the parties (main parties only) when the polls looked much as they do now.  In Newark the averages look like this…

While the media rightly points out UKIP’s performance as noteworthy in Newark having increased their vote there by 413% from 2010, are they really right to suggest the UKIP effect halved the Tory majority?  UKIP have apparently already fallen back a little from the European Elections performance in the constituency. But surely the bigger news is what the result tells us about the performances of Labour and the Lib Dems…

We can see that with this being a by-election the votes cast for main parties and the turnout are down as expected from 2010.  But look at the votes and vote shares compared to the 2001 & 2005 combined average.  Labour has gone from 36% vote share to 19% and the Lib Dems from 14% to 2%.

Labour might content itself issuing its current line that Newark is not its kind of territory.  But their share of the vote, for an opposition party seeking to form the next government, with their track record in the constituency in 2001 and 2005, is staggering.

In contrast, the unpopular Tories, whose MP had lost the whip in disgrace before resigning from Parliament, expected to get some punishment from voters but in fact despite this being a by-election ripe for a protest vote and a kicking at the hands of fed up voters, their share of the vote was actually higher than in 2001 and 2005.

No doubt many Labour voters stayed at home or voted tactically with UKIP. UKIP maximised its vote in its effort to score a major upset.  The Lib Dem collapse contiued to exhibit itself in amazing fashion. Some Tories stayed away to make their point or even flirted with UKIP. But even so, the election stats are remarkable for different reasons than the media would have you think.

13 Responses to “Newark by-election: what it tells us”


  1. 1 tallbloke 06/06/2014 at 2:34 pm

    Labour held Newark on 45% in 1997 and since then they’ve declined to 38%, then 34%, then 22%, and last night dropped to 17%

    The rural villages are still solid Tory (EU Common Ag Pol)

    The bigger villages and Newark town surged for UKIP at Labour and Libdem expense.

    UKIP doesn’t have the manpower to visit the farms and explain their excellent Ag policy to the farmers, and the establishment media won’t help them out in this so the shires will be the last Con stronghold.

    Labour are under challenge from UKIP in the northern towns
    Cons are under challenge from UKIP in the southern and eastern towns.

    Although UKIP aren’t getting the voteshare to upset the FPTP applecart yet,
    it’s all getting very interesting.

  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 06/06/2014 at 2:44 pm

    I didn’t think your policies were ready yet. What is your Ag policy?

    Worth remembering UKIP is only challenging in pockets, not across whole swathes of the country. Wythenshawe is an example of that.

  3. 3 tallbloke 06/06/2014 at 3:10 pm

    Policy will undergo final development until manifesto publication, so no leaks yet. It’s certainly true we’re only challenging in pockets. but then it’s only a couple of years since branch numbers started rapid expansion. Rome wasn’t built in a day. That’s why we’ll be targeting seats where branches have developed strongly and gained local council seats.

    The really remarkable thing about UKIP is that unlike the big two, our support doesn’t suffer a north south divide. We are gaining ground across Britain as both main parties haemorrhage support, as well as making good progress in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    UKIP is the only party holding elected office in all corners of the UK.

  4. 4 cosmic 06/06/2014 at 4:13 pm

    Not developing localised support, in fact concentrating on the Euro elections and having the centre of action based in Brussels, was in many people’s view a mistake that UKIP were making years ago. MEPs are easier to get and gain visibility, but of strictly limited usefulness.

    So now UKIP are facing a position where they have a greater %age of the popular vote than the LibDems but are quite likely to gain no votes under FPTP. They are coming very late to the business of developing locally, getting councillors etc.

  5. 5 tallbloke 06/06/2014 at 4:48 pm

    Localised support grows organically at the rate it does. It cannot be emplaced to fit election cycles. Branches sparsely covering several parliamentary constituencies take time to gather sufficient membership to be able to subdivide into single constituency associations which can build sufficient support to take parliamentary seats.

    If you think organised euroscepticism isn’t growing fast enough, join your local UKIP branch and bring some of your time, skills, effort and a few quid along with you.

    Cheers – TB

  6. 6 Jim 06/06/2014 at 4:52 pm

    Labour’s Agricultural policy equals whatever Brussels tells them it is, like all the other main parties, while we are in the EU. If Labour wanted to either halve or double agricultural subsidies it couldn’t as its an EU competence.

  7. 7 bert 06/06/2014 at 5:02 pm

    Yes join your local UKIP branch – and get purged after falling out with the Farage regime!

  8. 8 David 06/06/2014 at 6:02 pm

    Your analysis seems to ignore the boundary changes which I understand made Newark a much safer Conservative seat – or am I missing something?

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 06/06/2014 at 7:52 pm

    I hate to nitpick, but…

    Tallbloke @ 2.34pm
    “UKIP doesn’t have the manpower to visit the farms and explain their excellent Ag policy to the farmers, and the establishment media won’t help them out in this so the shires will be the last Con stronghold.”

    AM @ 2.44pm
    “I didn’t think your policies were ready yet. What is your Ag policy?”

    Tallbloke @ 3.10pm
    “Policy will undergo final development until manifesto publication, so no leaks yet.”

    In which case, just what excellent Agricultural policy did UKIP want to explain to farmers? Did you plan to leak it to farmers during the campaign?

  10. 10 Autonomous Mind 06/06/2014 at 7:56 pm

    David, the boundary changes in 2010 were very minor, although they did benefit the Tories in Newark and Labour in Bassetlaw.

  11. 11 Robert 06/06/2014 at 11:44 pm

    In 2010 Labour did better than expected. The Conservatives from September 2009 dropped in the opinion polls following the Conservative Party Conference with the rejection by Cameron of a referendum on Lisbon and they never recovered their winning lead over Labour. UKIP deprived them of at least 20 seats at that election. Labour might even have formed a coalition with the Libdems.

    There is no way the Conservatives were going to lose Newark to UKIP or any other party at this by election. In England only the Social Democrats Party and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party have taken a seat(s) at a general election as a new party. Our first past the post does not favour new parties. I doubt UKIP will win a single seat in 2015 but they are likely to cost the Conservatives plenty.

    At Newark in 2010 the results were

    General Election 2010: Newark[21]

    Conservative Patrick Mercer 27,590 votes 53.9% share
    Labour Ian Campbell 11,438 votes 22.3%
    Liberal Democrat Pauline Jenkins 10,246 votes 20.0%
    UKIP Rev Major Tom Irvine 1,954 votes 3.8%
    Majority 16,152 31.5%
    Turnout 51,228 71.4%

    At the by election the Conservative share of the vote went down compared to 2010 from 53.9% to 45% and votes fell by 10169. UKIP’s share rose from 3.8% to 25.9% and they gained 8074 votes. The winners were the 47.21% of those eligible to vote who stayed at home, just as they did at the European elections.

    You can read what you like into the results but the real panic is north of the border where both the Conservatives and Labour are offering everything to the Scots bar actual independence. Perhaps those who wish to get out of the EU should take some lessons from Alec Salmond on how to run a political party.

  12. 12 tallbloke 07/06/2014 at 12:57 am

    Hi AM,
    I have a slightly out of date paper leaflet (sept 2013) on UKIP’s ag policy. If I find time I’ll photograph it and post the image.

  13. 13 jameshighamj 09/06/2014 at 6:17 pm

    Disagree with AM – UKIP challenging right across the nation, minus a few pockets here and there.


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