(Photo: Justin Tallis/Getty)
Before the by-election battle with Ukip in Rochester that Westminster is rather obsessed with, there s another chance for Nigel Farage s party to cause a political earthquake. Tomorrow, voters in South Yorkshire will go to the polls to elect a new police and crime commissioner to replace Shaun Wright, who eventually resigned after the Rotherham child abuse scandal.
Ukip is fighting a vigorous campaign in this PCC election, launching posters at the weekend that read there are 1,400 reasons why you should not trust Labour again , with a picture of a teenage girl on them. The party s candidate Jack Clarkson does have a good chance of winning the seat from Labour, which will cause serious jitters.
Some Labour MPs think that it will show how the party is bleeding support in its heartlands, while others dismiss it as a unique by-election fought after a terrible scandal on what is likely to be a low turnout.
That Labour would scrap the job if it entered government in 2015 makes it a little less serious, too.
Both sides accept that it is impossible to call this result: there has been no poll and neither party has sufficient data from canvassing to make them sufficiently confident that they ll win. Both have sent out mail shots to voters, realising that postal votes are particularly important in this fight.
But even if Labour does beat Ukip, which the bookies odds (see last night s Evening Blend email here1, and sign up to our free daily email briefings here2) still suggest it will, Ukip could still use the result to make trouble. The result can be broken down by borough, which means we will know how each party fared in Rotherham and Doncaster, for instance.
Ukip are fairly confident of a win at least in Rotherham, but Doncaster is their second safest area, they claim.
Even with all the above caveats about this by-election saying very little about the general election result, both sides are very keen to get their hands on the data on how different local authority areas voted. Ukip could claim that a win in Doncaster means they have their tanks parked well and truly on Ed Miliband s lawn. Sources cheerfully point out that there are only two MPs in Doncaster, so it would not be a tremendous stretch to predict a strong Ukip seat in the Labour leader s constituency next year.
Indeed, one Ukip source says:
If I were a betting man, I would bet on us getting within 5,000 of Ed Miliband in Doncaster.
Ukip needs by-election results like this to built momentum and give voters in the area the sense that it is quite normal to back Nigel Farage s party.
Even if this result tells us very little about the General Election results in the area, a win for Ukip would still create that momentum and make life just a little more uncomfortable for Labour.
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