Parliamentary by-elections

Where next for Ukip?

Despite it proving to be wholly expected, Mark Reckless’ by-election win in Rochester & Strood has re-ignited the Ukip inflation game. After a few quiet weeks, the talk this weekend has returned of “dozens” of gains at the general election and of “political earthquakes” across the country.

Ukip has never been that great at managing expectations but it excels at stoking publicity. That the two cannot be easily reconciled doesn’t seem to bother Nigel Farage and co, but as the 2015 election gets nearer some cool heads are needed in the party to assess realistically which seats it is worth targeting.

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Local elections

A second Ukip defector held their seat on Thursday

It wasn’t widely reported, but a by-election parallel to that in Rochester & Strood took place on Thursday.

Chris Irvine won a seat on Medway council after defecting from the Conservatives to Ukip. Irvine is campaign agent to Rochester MP Mark Reckless, and decided to follow his colleague’s example by standing for re-election rather than simply cross sides. He had previously won the seat for the Tories in 2011. The result is therefore technically a hold rather than a gain for Ukip, and there was also a 5.4% swing from the Tories to Labour:

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Parliamentary by-elections

Rochester & Strood: five reflections

1. The Tories have a new election target

And it’s an entirely winnable one too. Mark Reckless managed a majority in Rochester & Strood of just 2,920. A swing of 3.65% would see the Conservatives take the seat back. This is on a par with the likes of Berwick-on-Tweed, one of the Tories’ tougher Lib Dem targets but a seat that polling suggests they could win. The party has to now find a candidate to fight Rochester in 2015, of course. Given they’ve yet to do likewise in Clacton, this could take some time.

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Parliamentary by-elections

Rochester & Strood: five things to watch for

Voters go to the polls today to choose a new MP for the constituency of Rochester & Strood in Kent.

For anyone planning on staying up, the result is expected around 3am.

The winner is a foregone conclusion. Mark Reckless will retain his seat, albeit as a member of Ukip rather than the Conservative party.

But this doesn’t mean the result won’t promise surprises. Here are five things to watch for.

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Election campaign

All the main parties are still searching for candidates

A total of 75 MPs have so far announced their intention to stand down at the 2015 general election. With a little over four months to go until the formal start of the election campaign, you’d have thought parties would have been scrambling to find replacement candidates. Not so. There are still a number of high profile seats with vacancies. Here’s a selection.

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Regions

Northern Ireland: coalition kingmaker

The 18 parliamentary seats in Northern Ireland are normally treated as a bit of an afterthought at a general election. They are not contested by any of the main British political parties, and are always the last to declare, their results tending to trickle in long after the polls are closed and when the identity of the new government is already known.

But those 18 seats may become a whole lot more consequential in 2015 if there is a hung parliament (which is very likely) where no two parties are able to agree on forming a coalition (which seems increasingly likely).

It could then be the case that Northern Ireland’s MPs turn from courtiers to kingmakers, and a tiny number of seats take on a huge significance.

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