By Paul Goodman
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Here are the figures for the main candidates:
Andy Sawford (Labour): 17,267
Christine Emmett (Conservative): 9,476
Margot Parker (UKIP): 5,108
Jill Hope (Liberal Democrat): 1,770
Labour majority: 7,791
The BNP got 614 votes and the Greens 378.
In other words –
- A very good – though not brilliant – result for Labour. Mr Sawford got a very big swing – 13% – and a lot of fun can be had with projecting how many Commons seats Labour would gain on that uniform performance. Grant Shapps is tweeting that Labour would have needed an 11,000 majority to match the Conservative gain in the last Parliament at Crewe & Nantwich. What is certain is that Mr Sawford won 48% of the vote, a bit short of the 55% his party took in the seat in 1997.
- A very bad – though not disastrous – result for the Conservatives. The Tory vote fell by 16%. This is a very poor result, but a long way from some of the by-election disasters of the past – such as Newbury and Christchurch. And Christine Emmett won second place comfortably.
- A very good – though not brilliant – result for UKIP. The party gained 14%. That's its best by-election result to date – though it failed to gain the second place some of its supporters were talking up this morning. But the big message from its vote is: UKIP doesn't need a brilliant result in 2015 to hamstring David Cameron and put Ed Miliband in Downing Street.
- A disastrous – not simply very bad – result for the Liberal Democrats. The party lost its deposit. Enough said.
Obviously, all will be different in 2015 – or whenever the next election comes – when the turnout is higher (though 44% yesterday was very respectable for a by-election). The question is: how different?
Could UKIP take enough votes from the Conservatives – not all their votes will have come from the blue corner, of course, though a significant chunk of them will – to hand Labour the seat? If so, what would that imply nationwide?
P.S: The swing to Labour was 13%. Lord Ashcroft predicted…13% (see here). I would label our proprietor Mystic Michael, were it not for the fact that his estimate was based not on intuition but on polling.