BBC News, Radio 4 and others have been giving plenty of airtime and oxygen – as they did for years without justification in featuring Farage on every possible occasion – to the UKIP ‘near-triumph’ of UKIP in the Middleton and Heywood by-election, writes Steve Walker in his too-rarely-updated Skwawkbox Blog.
The claim, in pseudo-rational analysis by pundits and near-histrionic terms by UKIP spokespeople, has been that the result is a scare for Labour and a clear demonstration of UKIP’s supposed threat to Labour in its heartlands.
Here comes the sting in this tale: Nonsense – as a quick comparison of yesterday’s results and the 2010 General Election results will show.
Here are the results side by side:
The first thing to note is that Labour’s vote is down by 37% – exactly the same as the percentage drop in turnout (36/57.5 = 63%).
Fine – Labour’s vote was exactly the same in proportion to the number of people casting votes, so nobody picked up disillusioned Labour voters. Where did UKIP get its support, then?
The UKIP vote rose by 9,800 – with a massive effort from them to create an upset… The Tory vote fell by over 9,000 and the BNP vote disappeared.
Right! So UKIP mobilised massively but only managed to steal Tory votes and inherit votes from the BNP. You can – and should – read the rest of the article on Skwawkbox.
It seems that Steve has missed a major element here, though – what happened to the Liberal Democrat vote? It fell almost as far as the Conservative vote, and from a lower starting-point, meaning that it was very nearly wiped out altogether. UKIP wasn’t chasing Liberal Democrat voters. The party made it clear that it wanted former Labour or Conservative voters.
So the former Liberal Democrat voters simply didn’t bother. Do they feel so utterly disenfranchised by Nick Clegg’s five-year betrayal of the British people and his own party’s principles that they gave up on the democratic process altogether?
That appears to be the case. And in that – it seems – Clegg’s failure is complete.
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