Thursday, 9 January 2014

Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election- Opportunity for UKIP, A tricky test for the reds.

The sad and untimely death at the age of 60 of the popular former minister, Paul Goggins, creates what could be a tricky by-election defence for Labour and an opportunity for UKIP. For in spite of all the good polling the party has yet to win a Commons seat. In fact the best it has ever done in a Westminster election was the 27.8% in the high octane contest at Eastleigh last February. By-elections don’t come round very often and UKIP needs to be totally committed to the fight in a way that they weren’t in South Shields in May filling the vacancy created by David Miliband’s departure. Major UKIP donors were not convinced about South Shields and there was a reluctance to put the money in. For Labour there’s a problem. Wythenshawe and Sale East is one of those heartland seats which, not to put too fine a point on it, it takes for granted and puts very little effort into. The Tories, who in the 1960s had the MP, have now all but given up with the result that turnouts are pitifully low. At general elections the parties just go through the motions. What is interesting is that UKIP polled well above their national average of 2.1& in this seat. If their current polling is anything to go by, this could get extremely tricky for the Reds. It’s low vote outcomes in heartland seats like Wythenshawe and Sale East which are a main reason why the electoral system seems biased to the red team. This means that there is nothing like the machine in place that you get in a marginal. Thus if it’s like South Shields there’ll be very limited data records which, as the yellows showed in Eastleigh, are the platforms on which wins can be based. If the parties could only get 54% out to vote at the general election then the chances are that we’ll see turnout in the 20s. Thus the threshold in terms of votes for victory will be quite low. If UKIP can manage to build on the 7.3% that the party and the BNP secured last time then who knows. What’s absolutely certain is that a UKIP by-election victory would totally change the media narrative. It seems likely that UKIP will be the undisputed challenger to Labour in the red strongoholds, since it tends to pick up a lot of disgruntled white working class voters in traditional Lab strongholds.

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