So it’s all over. Months of work by a great number of people. And the best ever UKIP result in a by-election.
We set ourselves the objective of gaining third place, and of maintaining our steady record of improvement in by-elections. And we succeeded. We also humiliated the Lib-Dems, who slumped to fourth place, and despite a couple of recounts failed even to save their deposit. We gave the Tories a nasty scare. And we scored 14.3% of the vote — the best UKIP by-election result to date.
This is all the more remarkable given that we didn’t even field a candidate in Corby in 2010, and had little infrastructure in place in the constituency. Candidate Margot Parker did a remarkable job, ably assisted by Campaign Director Lisa Duffy, and helped by UKIP activists from the region, and from as far away as Orkney and Eire.
Of course the social media are alive with comments — some from people who ought to know better — that UKIP robbed the Tories of the seat. We didn’t. First of all because we were taking votes from both former Conservative and former Labour voters — as well as from previous non-voters, and even from former Lib-Dems. I know — I was knocking on doors in the constituency. And in the Labour heartland of Corby town, I’m told that UKIP came second. And secondly, because even if all the UKIP votes had gone to the Tories, they still wouldn’t have won.
Most of all it was Louise Mensch who robbed the Tories of the seat. An effete, self-regarding dilettante, she quit mid-term in a fit of pique, on a pathetic “seeing more of my family” excuse, explicitly denied by her husband. She left a legacy of disillusioned Tories and angry voters. Add to that the government’s “omnishambles”, its ill-advised initiatives, its energy policy, or non-policy, which is undermining industry and forcing pensioners into fuel poverty, and it’s not surprising there was a back-lash.
The Tories must be rueing the day they selected a Cameron A-lister, and wishing that they’d put up Chris Emmett, their by-election candidate, in 2010. She’s a sound local girl, at one with grass roots Tory members, and she wouldn’t have quit mid-term. I’ve known her for years, and I have a high regard for her. Nothing wrong with the candidate — pity about the Party. But she was on a hiding-to-nothing, served up as a human sacrifice on whom the bruised voters of Corby could vent their annoyance.
As for the Lib-Dems, they have always been a vote-dustbin for the disgruntled, none-of-the-above, a-plague-on-both-your-houses voter. But by entering the coalition, they’ve sacrificed that modest advantage. Indeed while most who voted UKIP actually believe in our policies on Europe, energy, immigration and so on, I suspect that we may now be the beneficiary of those “none-of-the-old-parties” votes. The Lib-Dem candidate, with the inappropriate name of “Hope”, was by all accounts competent and articulate, if deeply misguided, but she was clearly stung by the humiliation of losing her deposit. Her speech at the count was hurt and bitter. She blamed Labour. She blamed the Tories. She blamed the coalition. In short, she blamed everything except the Lib-Dems’ own ineptitude.
Later on Any Questions, Shirley Williams dismissed UKIP’s Corby result as “a flash in the pan”. As Churchill might have put it, “Some flash. Some pan”.