Bradford West by election coverage

02:44

Clarity on the result (in full)

Respect 18,341 (55.9%)
Lab 8,201 (25.0%)
Con 2,746 (8.4%)
LD 1,505 (4.6%)
UKIP 1,085 (3.3%)
Green 481 (1.5%)
Nat Dem 344 (1.0%)
Loony 111 (0.3%)

Labour now blaming the fact that Galloway is a celebrity. If this was how politics went then Katie Price would have been elected in 2001 as well as Esther Rantzen in 2010!

An extraordinary night and its been thoroughly enjoyable trying to cover it! Thanks again 🙂

02:30

Respect – 18,341
Lib Dem – 1,505
Labour – 8,201
Tory – 2,746
Loony – 111
UKIP – 1,085
Green – 481
Dem Nat – 344

02:28 – Result coming in now!

02:16 – Lots of people complaining about the poor BBC coverage. Mike Smithson (@mikesmithsonOGH) just tweeted: “Why is the BBC Bradford West coverage so crap? This is the most sensational by-election result for decades and they are ignoring it”. Truth in those words. The BBC need to ensure proper coverage of by-elections in future.

02:05 – Talks of plotting already underway as to what to do with Ed Miliband in light of this result. Really exposing the importance of this result.

02:03 – Labour, just four hours ago, were “confident but not complacent”. Stunning turnaround for Respect. Talk of Galloway win of 2:1 over Labour.

02:01 – Not much being said now as there is little to report but its just starting to sink in that Galloway is making a shock return to Parliament!

01:49 – It appears I missed the turnout call! The clarify I’ve heard its at 51%. Very impressive turnout for a by election.

01:41 – Returning Officer reportedly saying we should expect a result around 3AM. My prediction of 0140AM seems all the more daft now!

01:38 – Amusing tweet from @JHepplestone “Queues in Bradford as people panic buy cat food in case of a Galloway victory”. #byelectionbanter (Hash tag my lame addition, not his!).

01:34 – Sky News trying to find out whether the result is worse for Labour or the Coalition. Seems quite clear that its easily the former. A hurrendous result in a safe Labour seat.

01:22 – For those wondering the Bradford West result in 2010 was Labour 45%, Tories 31% and Lib Dems 12% with the other parties racking up around 12% of the vote. The seat has been held by Labour since 1970 when they took it from the Tories.

01:18 – Twitter going crazy with by-election fever. Both “George Galloway” and #bradfordwest trending.

01:14 – For all my Lib Dem friends following this blog I apologise that I have heard so little on Jeanette’s result. Reports not good but apparently activists finding comfort in Labour’s crushing defeat. The line may well be that this wasn’t a rejection of the Coalition but Labour’s poor record in Bradford.

01:06 – Galloway attributing his victory to his anti-war message. Condemning not just the Labour candidate but also pitiful result from the Coalition parties.

00:56 – Sky now suggesting a result at around 1:40AM. Interview with Galloway revealing that Respect will field candidates not just in Bradford local elections but in many surrounding areas expecting surprise results.

00:50 – Galloway claims the “path of treason set by Tony Blair” is the reason for his victory.

00:49 – “By the Grace of God we have won the most sensational victory in British political history.” – George Galloway

00:43 – George Galloway still not yet to be seen at the count. Apparently resting his voice and throat after a lot of heavy campaigning and speeches.

00:35 – Sky News predicting Respect vote of 50%, Tory vote collapsing to as little as 13% (down from 31%) and a quote from a Labour MP to sum it all up…”we’re not just going to lose, but we’re going to lose by a mile”.

00:32 – Count verification nearly complete so we should be hearing on the turnout shortly. Actual vote count will commence after that. My 2AM prediction could turn out to be far more accurate than the Sky News one #libdemconcellationprize

00:24 – BBC backing up a lot of what we have heard from Sky News saying Galloway likely to win.

00:17 – Word that a Labour defeat could really take the wind out of their big comeback in the polls and on their strong response to the Budget, #cashforcameron and the potential fuel crisis.

00:14 – With talk of Galloway’s sensational return to Parliament the Big Brother banter has already begun. “Would you like me to be the cat?”

00:03 – Jon Craig on Sky News claiming we see result in an hour or so. 1AM sounds rather ambitious. I’d say wait for closer to 2AM. Swing to Respect from Labour could be up to 37%. Mosque elders were advising to vote Labour, young voters and women voters seemingly have done quite the contrary!

00:01 – Rumours are that Galloway took 3/4 of the Postal Vote. Seems suspiciously high but it comes with the gossip on a by election night like this!

23:56 – Awaiting the official turnout shortly. Rumours of as low as 30%. Would be a surprise considering the hype but similar scenes were seen in Feltham & Heston. May be the case that the votes in Bradford West became sick of the coverage and political hype.

23:53 – Tory MP reporting to have said that Galloway is to have won 50% of the vote! Earlier today Ladbrokes had 40/1 on Galloway winning over 40%. Even if he made 40% it would be truly shake the political landscape in 2012.

23:47 – A Tory friend of mine just informed me that we may be doing worse than I first predicted! I doubt we shall fall to 7th like he says but regardless these are very worrying times. Labour MP quoted as saying there will be “a Respect MP”. Truly astonishing what is unfolding before us.

23:43 – Rumours that Lib Dems may well have been beaten easily by UKIP. Not just this, but also we are to worry about the Green vote as well. Very worrying news for the party.

23:38 – Sky News reporting that Labour MPs are slowly conceding defeat. Galloway has reportedly won postal votes as well as three “muslim wards”. Sky calling it “sensational”. Labour “jitters” now turning into “dismay”.

23:34 – Twitter seems to be going Galloway crazy. A couple of hours ago the feed was filled with Labour confidence. The picture could not be any different now!

23:33 – Early rumours are that Galloway is edging Labour on the postal votes. If this is true then Labour will be very worried as this is where Galloway actually believed he would have lost a lot of ground to Labour. Also I’m hearing that UKIP may well be running the Tories close for 3rd. Not too sure on the Lib Dem vote at the moment but it isn’t looking good.

23:31 – Apologies for the late kick off, I’m not quite as on the ball as I was for Feltham & Heston but I shall try my best!

Why 2012 is so important

2011 was a tough year for the party, no doubt. But that is not to say it was a year that did not prove beneficial to the party. It proved to be the best learning curve possible as we saw the true impact of Coalition on the Liberal Democrats. We were tested to the very core and were on the backfoot on more than one occasion. With the Alternative Vote referendum we were made to pretty much solely fight the ‘Yes’ campaign on our own (due to a lack of strong support from Labour) whilst the local elections and Scottish Parliamentary elections proved too big a mountain to climb. The party lost many wonderful councillors, MSPs and even suffered further embarassment (if that is to be the appropriate term) with the crushing rejection of the Alternative Vote from the electorate. But as I said, this was all part of a big learning curve for the party. What one would hope is that any successes or failures seen in 2011 are taken on board and are used to fuel a much needed comeback in 2012.

In ways it feels that the party has fallen as low as it can in terms of public support and it would seem like the only way is up. Although this may not be the case, we need to make sure it certainly is. One thing we must accept is that 2012 will not bring the economic prosperity this country craves and that is something we must accept early on. The party and indeed the Government need to be wary of any positive outcomes that arise as it will be too easy to get complacent and revel in the successes of Coalition Government (you certainly would not blame a party who have gone through what the Lib Dems have for doing so!). Apart from the economy there definitely are areas of success that the party should highlight further. 2010 and 2011 were not great years for promotiom of party achievements. Something went wrong along the line and this has to be changed in 2012. We can not as a party allow the Conservatives to capitalise on popular Lib Dem policy in the same way we cannot allow the press and Labour to portray a message that we are not pulling our weight in Government.

If anything the aforementioned idea of celebrating Lib Dem achievements seems almost a no brainer. It is a shame that we even need to remind the party to share its successes with the wider world but there is clearly a lack of such opportunism. I think if the party solve this one issue of communicating with the electorate better it may solve many of the arising problems that we have already seen in Government so far. Not just a small consolation poll boost but genuine progress in rebuilding the bridges of trust and belief between the party and the people. Further on from this the party also needs to sustain its brilliant by-election record by translating these into major victories in the local elections as well as the much anticipated GLA and London Mayoral Elections; elections that will provide fantastic opportunities for Liberal Democrats to assert themselves as a party that is still very much independent and that can be trusted to govern.

But whatever else 2012 brings, I want to think that come this time next year we can remember 2012 as a year that was worth celebrating. And not just because of the Olympics.

Merry Christmas and have a brilliant new year!

Joshua Dixon.

Winning public support on the EU could not be more simple

It should not be a secret as to how we can win public trust on the European Union. In fact, it should be something we commit to doing so more often. What I am talking about is the not-so-secret way of winning the debate on the EU. The way we do it? Simple, we talk about it. Not what you expected, is it? You expected a detailed plan devised to bring down Nigel Farage and his band of Eurosceptic troops whilst Nick Clegg would seemingly be crowned “King of the Eurostate”. Well ok, you probably didn’t expect that either but to take things on a more serious route it is extremely worrying that there is such a lack of dialogue inside and outside of the Liberal Democrat party on the EU. It is as if we don’t even believe our own arguments. We are in a very good position. We are not a party that suffers with huge splits on many issues, particularly on the EU. The Conservative Party have the most obvious splits with many backbenchers calling for absolute withdrawal of Britain’s membership of the EU whilst Tory frontbenchers fly the flag of the EU (although the media would like you to think otherwise based upon a pointless veto). The Labour Party, especially under the Blair’s leadership at the height of New Labour, are seen to be a predominantly pro-EU party. However, there are still Eurosceptic voices present within the Socialist and more traditional strands of the Labour party. Finally, we have our party. We stand firmly as a party that openly believes in stronger ties with the European Union. However, that is how we leave it. We simply leave ourselves to be known as the party that loves the EU. What we should really regarded as is that we are the party that fights for the EU and stands up for it under the scrutiny of the media and the public.

It is no wonder that with such soft support towards the EU that petitions on the Government’s e-petitions website are popping up almost every day with thousands adding their support to withdrawing British membership. This simply is not good enough. I mean, there are signs of an EU inspired spirit of sorts inside some prominent Lib Dem figures. When the issue is raised they do perfectly well of playing a very safe Europhile card to warn off the ‘sceptics. However, we are not using our knowledge and passion for the EU to the best of our abilities. One thing the Euroscpetics do very well at (which UKIP members have almost mastered) is being able to drop any political issue or incident at the doorstep of Brussels. This is a tactic we should reverse and employ ourselves. When they say jobs, we give them 3 million reasons as to why the EU has provided the UK with so many jobs. When they say crime, we tell them of how EU nations stand united in tackling continent spanning crimes. When they tell us about Education and Opportunity we tell them about the Erasmus scheme allowing students to travel to EU countries and experiences other cultures whilst also expanding knowledge. Those are just three reasons alone. But if you take the time you can find a benefit the EU brings to almost any area of UK society.

All I hope now is that the party is getting the message. The unpossible is becoming the possible and the Eurosceptic parties are slowly winning the argument with the public which is not just dangerous, but it also threatens our very own membership and relations with the EU. The party must assert itself more and not be so fearful of praising the EU as it has slowly become somewhat of a taboo subject. Its a fight we never thought we would have to fight, but too long have we and others been complacement. We well and truly let our guard down. Not again. Not on our watch.

The opportunity for Lords Reform must be taken

In 1997 the Labour Party manifesto outlined that under a Labour government the House of Lords would be reformed so that the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be ended by statute…. It was not until after the 2001 General Election that a public consulation on Lords Reform took place. Over 1,000 people took part and there was much debate sparked in Parliament. However, even after all this buzz there were no concrete measures taken to reform the House of Lords. Even when a vote was put to Parliament in 2003, the Commons and the Lords voted to ensure that any Peers would be Appointed and not directly Elected. To show how overdue Lords Reform is you only need to recognise how long it has been talked about. Even as far as back as 1911, under the Parliament Act, the Liberal Party underlined a need for reform and that the Second Chamber itself should be “constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis“. Although it was noted that such changes could not be achieved with any great immediacy, would I not be right in saying that 100 years is more than long enough for the sort of reform talked about by the Liberals in 1911?

Without stating the obvious, it does not take much of a mind to realise that the political landscape is very different to 1997, let alone 1911. But if now is not the best opportunity for Lords Reform, that actually shakes up Parliament, then when is? Public trust in politics is not in great shape and we need to give the electorate a lifeline to show that finally the men and women behind the suits that stand on a platform of “democracy” are actually listening. The Coalition agreement is the first step. It outlines that there are intentions to work towards a mainly, or wholly, elected Upper Chamber. My take is that although there is a desire to see a fully elected House of Lords, we should not turn away from the opportunity to see a “mainly” elected Upper Chamber. As Nick said recently, 80% is better than 0%. It must not be ignored that there will be great opposition to this. Even when looking at the 1997 Labour manifesto, on the issue of Lords reform, the party had to reitterate that they were opposed to abolishing the monarchy! To think that such ridiculous claims have to be refuted, it is worrying that Lords Reforms may well be halted by ludicrous arguments and the overhanging worry that the Lords themselves may oppose such moves. But this is no reason to back down. If the case is put clearly and loudly, the people will unite behind this. The Prime Minister is said to have given his backing so it seems that there is only a matter of time. Quite frankly, we owe it to the electorate if we wish to uphold the foundations of a liberal democracy.

 

Tories take 6 point lead in new ICM poll

So the Feltham & Heston by-election is finally over and we can all stop speculating. What happens now is the typical spin you expect with by-election results. Labour are very careful in ensuring that the message they intend on delivering is that the result was a damning judgement on the Coalition and the path they are taking in Government. The Tories however are trying their best to underplay the fact they made no ground in the seat, even though it may be the sort of seat they need to win in 2015 if they want to secure a majority. Finally the Lib Dems and UKIP can both breathe a sigh of relief after both parties retained their deposits, especially the Lib Dems who were tipped to finish fourth. I think this is the best opportunity for me to congratulate Roger Crouch, the Lib Dem candidate, on his efforts. It was never going to be an easy contest but he showed that he wanted to work relentless for the constituents and proved many critics wrong who predicted the party would finish dismally behind UKIP.

My own personal take on this by-election is probably a little different to the Tory and Labour view. I think Labour should be relieved that they cemented Feltham & Heston as a Labour safe seat, but the low turnout of 28.8% makes it harder for the party to affirm the result as a message of condemnation to the Government. The Tories, like I said before, should be disheartened by the fact that they made no ground, even though this sort of seat is one they need to win back if they wish to reach a majority number of seats in 2015.

Now although the by-election showed no particular effect from the newly formed post-Veto ground of British politics, tomorrows Sunday Telegraph/ICM poll certainly does. The poll shows a two point rise for the Conservatives (40%), a two percent drop for Labour (34%) and the Lib Dems sticking on 14%. ICM are renowned for their consistent method and proved, in 2010, that they were one of the most accurate pollsters in predicting the outcome of the General Election result. The poll adds yet another blow to the Labour camp, but more worryingly, to Ed Miliband who has received a lot of criticism lately for not capitalising on Cameron’s EU-veto and for performing poorly in this weeks Prime Minister’s Questions. It can only raise more doubts over Ed’s ability to lead the Labour party into the next General Election and to present them as a party ready to govern, with him as Prime Minister.  The Conservatives will be looking to capitalise the poll lead as a confirmation that the British public view Cameron’s veto as standing up for Britain against the EU. What may be worrying however is that the poll also found that 59% of people expect a referendum on Britain’s EU membership at some point between now and by the end of the next Parliament. Although many Tory voters are Eurosceptic, the Prime Minister has made it clear that he thinks Britain’s best intentions are served within the EU and not out; thus providing yet more opportunities for UKIP to capitalise on the worries of the voters. The Liberal Democrats can take comfort in the fact that their ratings have not been affected by Cameron’s recent moves within the EU, but with 25% of voters opposing a referendum the party really needs to make ground on pro-EU voters who may react a little more hostile towards the recent moves by David Cameron.

So whatever conclusions you make from recent events it is clear that all three major parties need to really consider how to overcome the recent downfalls, whatever they may be. Labour need to sort out their ever present problems with the leadership, the Tories need to ensure they sustain their lead whilst the Lib Dems need to make sure they start to make ground on lost voters and ensure they win the PR war on the big issues like the EU.

Election night: Feltham & Heston Parliamentary by-election & council election coverage

Thank you and goodnight.

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01:44: So there we have it. Labour hold the seat with a convincing majority and an impressive swing of 8% from the Conservatives.

RESULTS: LAB: 12,639 CON: 6,436 LID DEM: 1,364 UKIP: 1,276

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01:03: Declaration expected within 15 minutes.

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00:52: Sources say that Lib Dem candidate Roger Crouch may well have scraped 3rd after and may well have also saved his deposit. This would be a great relief to all those worrying of a UKIP surge.

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00:43: Conservatives have taken both seats in Coombe Vale by-election. Result: Con 1340, 1308. Lib Dem 908, 778. Lab 526, 502. Green 122, 108 UKIP 70 CPA 94, 76. Con HOLD. via @HelenDuffet on twitter

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00:35: Reports that the turnout in Coombe Vale is at 43%.

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oo:31: Results from Frisby on the Wreake: Ind 212 Con 187 Lab 89 Ind 62 (IND gain from CON).

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00:28: A little late off the mark but the Tories have lost a council seat to an Independent in Frisby on the Wreake.

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00:24: Liberal Democrats now very likely to finish 4th in F&H by most reports.

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00:14: Alok Sharma (Conservative MP) pretty much concedes Conservative defeat on Sky News. Nigel Farage jokingly then concedes defeat to much laughter from those around him.

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00:04: Nigel Farage has arrive at the F&H count ready to give TV interviews. Will he be pursuing a celebratory viewpoint? Maybe he knows something we do not.

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23:52: CORRECTION: Turnout was at 28.8% in F&H.

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23:50: The BBC News Channel has officially started its coverage of the F&H by-election.

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23:46: Sky News’ Jon Craig has claimed that turnout in F&H by-election is at 31%. Also rumours of an increased Labour majority but it is still too early to know of that yet.

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23:42: Expecting an official turnout shortly…

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23:25: Early indications that UKIP vote is very strong in F&H. Worrying for Lib Dems. Also, early indications that turnout in Coombe Vale will be a little more promising than the one seen in F&H.

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23:17: Updated estimate that the F&H result will be declared at around 2AM (although this could easily mean a lot later). Will try to find out information in regards to the Coombe Vale by-election.

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23:07: No surprises in the fact that many Labour activists are whispering rather loudly that they are confident of winning the Feltham & Heston by-election.

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22:58: After some messy calculations, taking into account that postal votes will be making up 30-40% of votes in F&H, my prediction is that turnout will be between 22-30%.

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22:50: The 7,018 postal votes returned suggests a drop of 3,127 from the 2010 election. However, it is being said that these Postal Votes could be making all the difference tonight.

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22:42: BBC 5 Live claim that the result for Feltham & Heston could be in before 1AM. Is this a further indication of low turnout? Or just a mere guess. I have a feeling we may be waiting a little bit longer.

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22:35: Rumours that turnout in Feltham & Heston could be very very low. This would be very worrying as all parties put a lot into the campaign. Will the Lib Dems gain from this as a party traditionally very able to get the vote out? Labour must be grateful for the early postal voters if this is true.

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22:10: Rumours are that Postal Vote turnout is at nearly 62%. This will be good for Labour as many of the votes will have been cast pre-Veto.

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22:00: The polls have closed and now we await the results for the elections that have taken place today. Early indications from various sources are that the Tory vote has held strong but that Labour has done a decent job of getting the Heston voters out.

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I will be updating throughout the night with my coverage of the elections. I’ll be trying my best to get all the info possible to be as informative and on the dot with results as possible!

The results of greatest interest to me, of course, are the ones where the greatest Lib Dem fight has been placed. The first that comes to mind is the hard fought by-election in the Feltham & Heston parliamentary constituency which is being fought due to the death of the late Labour MP Alan Keen. Our candidate Roger Crouch, a solicitor, has fought a strong campaign with the help of Lib Dem MPs, councillors and party members. Although the seat may appear to be a straight tussle between the Labour and Conservative candidates, it is clear that this is important for the Lib Dems to show they can buck the trend of polls and see off a strong UKIP presence in an ever-Eurosceptic Britain. I will also be closely looking at the council election of Coombe Vale which sees the chance for TWO Lib Dem candidates (now known as the “KingstonDouble”) to take two council seats off the Tories.

The “rise” of UKIP

How many times will we have to hear Euro-fantasists (sorry, I mean Eurosceptics) scream the same old screams at the slightest instance of a rise in UKIP polling figures. Apparently, as Lib Dems, we are supposed to be quaking in our boots due to an iminent UKIP rise to power. I do not want to veer into an area of political complacency, and of course I know UKIP have polled their highest in the latest Survation poll since 2009, but we need to consider the circumstances in which we always see these small explosions of UKIP popularity. The obvious example is during the European Elections, a time when UKIP are given a great amount of airtime to spell out their Eurosceptic ideals to the nation. In this period they quite clearly have a great record of playing on the fears and worries of voters who are not necessarily “Eurosceptic” but merely looking for an outlet of their anger towards the state of our nation. Other than during the European Elections, UKIP (as well as many of the “other” parties) have managed to capitalise on times of public anger towards the political mainstream. The expenses scandal provided the perfect setting for Farage and his party to really set the scene with a narrative of an “us against them” kind of scenario. It worked well, as the Harris poll in June 2009 showed with UKIP Westminster Voting Intention figures hitting an all time high of 10%.

However, the big struggle that has always been present and clear for UKIP is the fact they have always struggled to maintain support. We talk about the great struggle our party faces but we only need to look to UKIP who, admittedly very impressively, poll only behind the Conservatives in the European Elections but still become banded in the single figure polling figures attributed to the “other” parties in Westminster polls, just days after the elections. The problem has been outlined before you. UKIP only “rise” in times when there is a clear and outspoken amount of disadain for the political mainstream (expenses scandal) or in a time when UKIP’s favourite topic (the EU) is put before the public for scrutiny. With cynics like myself already in doubt of such a “rise” I feel I do not even need to go into the fact that the polls showing such positive figures for UKIP do so using questionable methods of producing figures for their recent political surveys.

Now I must insist this is not a case of complacent behaviour or a kind of Lib Dem fantasist diatribe as I am well aware of the issues a genuine UKIP rise would raise. The big problem for our party is that a UKIP rise to the so called “mainstream” of British politics (that I myself am evidently clear of accepting as a reality) is that for a party like the Liberal Democrats, General Elections are not always just about winning the battle of policies and presenting the best case for Governance, but also a case of trying to gain fair airtime amongst the Labour and Conservative dominated electoral landscape. If UKIP were in a position to seriously attempt occupying parts of this landscape they may well gain a lot of coverage in the media, thus making it harder for our party to have the say they often miss out on. God knows what questions this would raise for the 2015 Leaders Debates! We know Farage was vehemontly against the UKIP exclusion from the debates in 2010 so it would be hard to shut him out of such a debate this time around.

Now, for the party, the aforementioned problems with gaining equal coverage of the campaign is always going to be an issue but that appears to be the only potential stumbling block at this stage. Although the prospect of UKIP lying neck and neck with the party in terms of polling figures is a scary one, it would not necessarily be the worst thing in the world electorally. What is clear is that when the UKIP vote rises, ours stays strong. It is in fact the Tories who lose out to UKIP in the biggest way. Their party has a similar effect on the Tories in the way that we do (or sadly, did) have on the Labour party when looking back in time. If such a UKIP rise to prominence became a reality the great interest would not be, for us, the potential seats we may lose to UKIP or seats that UKIP may gain nationwide, but the Tory-Lib Dem marginals which may prove crucial for us in 2015. We risk losing votes to Labour, but would the concession of votes be quite as heavy as that of Tory votes to UKIP? This is completely hypothetical at this point, but what I have outlined would at least be consistent with history. I hope we are not presented with such a situation in 2015, but the electorate may still be looking for something new, especially in a time where many feel they are still getting a rough deal with the European Union supposedly eroding away British sovereignty (I’ll leave that one to you guys!). Polls are important, but have yet to be on UKIP’s side when it mattered. Time will tell but I shall not be holding my breath.