A fortnight today, voters go to the polls in the Clacton and Heywood & Middleton by-elections.
Both contests have fallen out of the national headlines during the past few weeks, but they will assuredly drift back into focus as polling day nears.
The media will be smacking its lips loudest at the battle in Clacton, where Douglas Carswell will almost certainly become Ukip’s first elected MP.
He’s up against seven other candidates. Here’s the full list, in alphabetical order:
Douglas Carswell (Ukip)
Andy Graham (Lib Dem)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony)
Charlotte Rose (Independent)
Bruce Sizer (Independent)
Chris Southall (Green)
Giles Watling (Conservative)
Tim Young (Labour)
I’ve seen next to no national coverage of the Heywood & Middleton by-election, and I doubt this will change ahead of polling day. There are five candidates in this contest:
John Bickley (Ukip)
Iain Gartside (Conservative)
Abi Jackson (Green)
Liz McInnes (Labour)
Anthony Smith (Lib Dem)
The results of both by-elections are expected in the early hours of the following morning.
In the days immediately after Carswell announced he was defecting and standing for re-election, we had two opinion polls. Both showed Ukip with a large lead. Since then we’ve had nothing. But that’s two more than we’ve had from Heywood & Middleton, where zero polls have been carried out since the by-election was triggered by the death of MP Jim Dobbin.
Ukip didn’t stand in Clacton in 2010:
While in Heywood & Middleton in 2010, Ukip won only 2.6% of the vote – small enough to be lumped in with the “others”:
The turnout in Clacton in 2010 was 64.2%; in Heywood & Middleton it was 57.5%. I doubt either of these totals will be exceeded on 9 October.
I also doubt we’ll see a surprise outcome in either contest. Carswell will still be MP for Clacton on 10 October, albeit under new colours. Labour will still represent Heywood & Middleton. The figures to watch will be the margins of victory and the line-up of losers, starting with who comes in second place.
Will the Tories be able to emerge as respectable runners-up in Clacton? Can Ukip jump from fifth to second in Heywood? Will the Lib Dems lose their deposit in both seats?
I suspect the answer to all those questions will be Yes.