Thurrock is just down the road from Southend. About fifteen miles or so from my door, as the crow flies. And to go there, to listen to UKIP it’s already theirs. They did indeed do well in the local elections in May, but then they did well in Southend without much of an idea of what they were standing for.
Tim Aker, the UKIP MEP for the East of England and candidate for Thurrock, is even going on Newsnight and describing Thurrock as “his seat”. Which is presumptious, given that it’s a three way marginal which he hasn’t won yet.
But it illustrates a point: they think they’ve got this sewn up. So in a by-election in a Labour council seat, a week after coming within six hundred and twenty votes of winning a safe Labour parliamentary seat, they’d look to storm it and win in a landslide.
Funny that they lost, and by a considerable margin.
The final vote in West Thurrock & South Stifford:
|Russell Peter Cherry||UKIP||601||33.82%|
That’s not a narrow win. That’s a drubbing.
What I like most about this has been the reactions of the Conservatives and UKIP. Sitting Tory MP (and top of Labour and UKIP hit list) Jackie Doyle-Price said:
“What’s happened tonight is that the result is broadly consistent with what happened in May… They’ve had armies coming from London to try and get the vote out and all they’ve managed to do is stay still which is poor for their prospects at the next general election.“
Yeah, winning the seat with over 50% is disastrous. Besides, in May UKIP won five seats, two from Labour and three from the Conservatives, polling 39% against Labour’s 30% and the Tories’ 28%. So UKIP’s vote share was broadly the same as across the borough. Labour’s rose dramatically. And the Conservatives’ about halved.
Jackie Doyle-Price might think Thurrock Labour are standing still. But even if they are, it will be enough to destroy her 92 seat majority.
Tim Aker said:
“Labour have made no ground in their heartland, despite us being up against the entire Labour machine. They brought a shadow cabinet minister, they brought everything down here and their votes not gone forward. This is Labour’s safest seat and it just shows their vote isn’t improving, that people are coming to UKIP and that we are the change.“
Now, far be it from me to suggest that Mr Aker can’t count, but actually the Labour vote share did increase. In May Labour polled 47% of the vote. On Thursday they polled over 50. A small increase, but against the grain of the media story. UKIP’s vote, meanwhile, fell slightly.
And as for the accusations of both Aker and Doyle-Price, that Labour committed resources from outside Thurrock to win the election: damn right we did. Thurrock is a target seat. Do UKIP and the Tories suppose that resources from outside Thurrock won’t be committed come the general election campaign? And do they not mean to do the same?
Besides, Tim Aker’s assistant at the European Parliament — paid for by the, err, European Union — seems to have been spending a fair amount of time away from Brussels in Thurrock, if his twitter feed is anything to go by.
Southend Labour has sent activists to Thurrock. We will be doing so again in the run-up to 2015. Partly because Thurrock is our closest target seat, but also because Polly is an excellent candidate. Come 2015, it is Labour who will be offering a positive, forward looking vision, and as in West Thurrock & South Stifford, it is Labour and Polly who the voters will back.