In just a month’s time (October 20), the ‘latest’ United Kingdom MP will get elected to the House of Commons. He or she will have the honour of representing the Rochester constituency.
Most people will ask “where the heck is that?” and as a rider “why should I care about that MP”? Well, it’s all about a political volcano that has been smoking & rumbling for some time, and is now threatening a full eruption, isn’t it? If that happens it will pour its hot lava over the main three parties, Conservative, Labour & LibDem alike, and its ash cloud will also engulf the UK as well, so we all ought to take notice perhaps?
This ‘solely British’ volcano is known as UKIP of course, and the main name in the frame is one Nigel Farage its popularist leader. Rochester is the third by-election in two months (it is like buses – none come along for ages then three turn up all at once!) – and UKIP have triumphed in the last two (but merely winning one of course); not only did they get their first MP at the expense of the Conservatives, but they gave Labour a bloody nose as well, didn’t they?
Rochester & Strood constituency is in South East England’s Kent area near London, and its old claim to fame is associated with our historic maritime history, particularly at the Thames’ Chatham naval docks (long gone now – thirty years ago). It is an area that has suffered many years of economic decline, and is fertile ground for political upheaval. Earlier times’ socialism has been replaced by latter day’s conservatism and the early indications are that UKIP will win this seat by at least ten points from the Tories (with Labour nowhere to be seen, and the LibDems losing their deposit AGAIN).
A win for UKIP would ensure the bandwagon rolls-on at ever increasing speed. Later and more focused polls, as the parties pitch-in resources and (believable?) commitments, will point us all to the direction that it is all going, won’t it?
The candidates haven’t actually all yet been announced (so all is speculation for mow), but many analysts suspect that the Conservatives, despite trying a ploy of an American style ‘primary’, and widely rubbishing in the media their ‘defected and previous incumbent’ Mark Reckless, will fall well short when the votes are counted. The Tories will spend-spend-spend this time though, and pull out ALL the stops (as they did last year to win Nottinghamshire’s Newark) with Ministers required to go there (minimum five times?) and their MPs (minimum three times?) no less to canvases for their candidate!
The Conservatives certainly want this by-election like ‘a hole in the head’ – the consequences could be dire in their defence against UKIP you see (so a Tory win by even a single vote will be greeted with euphoria). Labour simply wishes that this by-election was a bad dream – no longer a target seat as expected, they will be lucky to get a quarter of the vote (a win would be like a lottery jackpot!). The LibDems will continue to fight with their head in the sand of course (and a £500 saved deposit will be totally amazing, wouldn’t you say?).
The Tories are running scared of UKIP these days, and Farage knows that so is rubbing their noses in it isn’t he? Oh yes, heads might still roll over all of this though.
This is a dangerous field for PM David Cameron personally – his Party are a fickle lot when the chips are down (just look at their crushingly cruel betrayal of PM Margaret Thatcher some twenty five years ago! She was challenged within two weeks, and then unceremoniously ousted, following a surprising & humiliating Eastbourne by-election defeat – by a rousingly popular LibDem party of the time). Being the most popular party leader doesn’t necessarily save you in the Conservative Party, if they are facing Election defeat, does it?
Ed Miliband is already under increasing criticism as leader, and a weak one at that. He has these days finally opened his mind-up to the fact that UKIP could scupper his chances of being Prime Minister, but perhaps too late? Humiliation, as seems likely, at Rochester if say he only gets a fifth of the vote, could finally mark his card, couldn’t it?
Nick Clegg is probably safe as leader because the LibDems seem resigned to their fate, and on a good day are prepared to score less than ten percent of the vote (which they won’t do here of course – perhaps two percent?).
[What would make UK politics really interesting for us all outsiders would be, if all three main party leaders just ‘went’, and we then had some fresh faces to take on Farage at next year’s General Election, wouldn’t it?]