Friday, 20 December 2013

Tide Has Turned?

Yesterday was the Elm and Christchurch by-election and so that I do not keep you in suspense for too long the people of the ward elected Michele Tanfield, the Conservative Candidate, to look after their interests on Fenland District Council.

Here are the results in full:

Trevor Brookman (Lib Dem)
Alan Burbridge (UKIP)
Dean Reeves (Labour)
Michele Tanfield (Conservative)
Phil Webb (Ind)


Why is this significant you may ask? Well Elm and Christchurch was the best part of the Waldersley Ward which they won from the Conservatives by a fair margin in the 2013 County Elections. Indeed back in May in the villages of Elm and Friday Bridge UKIP got 50%+ of the vote. UKIP in this area could have and did easily argue they were the party in charge of the Wisbech area and that they just had to wait for a by-election or the 2015 district elections to take virtually all the seats. They did have between 40-60% of all the votes in all the electoral wards in May so this was not a ridiculous argument.

At the Count.
How times have changed now in Elm and Christchurch as UKIP have lost just under 1/2 of their vote and the Conservatives getting a 10% swing from UKIP since the County Elections. UKIP are really worried by this result because they should have won. This was quite evident from their faces last night at the count and their chatter about what to do about a very bad result. Their 'revolution' in politics seems to be faltering.

There are of course problems with comparing the 2013 County Council elections with this recent by-election. For starters Walderesley, the county ward for Elm and Christchurch, contains villages on the other side of Wisbech like Wisbech St Mary and Parson's Drove. However the electorate in that area overwhelmingly voted for the local, and well liked, Lib Dem candidate Gavin Booth so much so he beat the Conservative candidate, Will Sutton. Also the turnout during the May elections was higher at 28%; it is possible that the people who didn't turnout at this by-election were overwhelmingly UKIP supporters who just couldn't be bothered to vote. I view this somewhat unlikely however because usually the electorate splits out across the area in the same way. Furthermore, if the above scenario is true it would mean UKIP arn't doing a very good job in the County Council because clearly their voters won't vote for them again because they have done a shoddy job.

It would thus seem that UKIP have lost a great deal of support then. This is probably due to the fact in the 6 months since May they have done nothing except avoid council meetings or attack children in care, obviously this is poor representation of the community. The fact that they don't seem to care about the locals in their wards could also be another factor. UKIP have done barely any campaigning and have thus not seen or listened to the people of Elm and Christchurch. This is the complete opposite of the Conservative approach to local government as they always put in a lot of effort to see and listen to people's views. Indeed Michelle did this even when she was chased by the Elm village goose yesterday whilst trying to speak to some residents. It was a very funny sight.

The goose that chased after Michelle.

UKIP in this by-election were clearly a coalition of opposition voters instead of just disaffected Conservatives, as at least 64% of their vote is not from previous Conservative voters*. UKIP thus get 20% of the vote in each election from Lib Dems, Labour and other anti-establishment voters in the Wisbech area. Coincidently the mid twenties is where the Lib Dems, the previous local opposition party, used to score in the by-elections they stood in.

During the break between the end of polls and the count I went for a KFC, I hope Oliver Cooper is very proud.

It would seem the pendulum of election results which was previously against the Conservatives in the Wisbech area is beginning to swing back. Indeed many previous UKIP activists have now joined the Conservatives and helped Michelle win her victory, which UKIP looked very pleased about during the count. UKIP are thus now the main opposition in Fenland but they need a national revolutionary air to actually win seats, something that I doubt they will experience ever again except in the next Euro elections. However this no excuse for Conservatives to rest on their laurels, the fight will always be hard with a party which gets 35% of the vote when they just put their name on the ballot paper. Let's take the fight to UKIP.

The Conservatives with Michelle in the middle after the count.

*In reality the 64% figure is likely to be higher because many of the people who vote UKIP only started voting in the 2013 County Council elections according to electoral role statistics.

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