Why is the Telegraph’s favourite party doing so badly?
In last nightâ€™s by-elections, UKIP won the sort of votes which normally go to joke candidates. In Croydon LBC, Bensham Manor, they took 40 votes, 1.5% of the total, which was down from 305 in 2006. In Nuneaton BC, Bede, they won 8. They can at least take consolation from the fact that they beat the candidate for the Official Monster Raving Looney Party in Croydon. But their 8 votes in Nuneaton is truly dreadful. Even the English Democrats won 75 votes in that by-election.
Coming on top of their recent 40 votes in Horsham, these results do call into question whether there is any point in the party fighting local by-elections. In Scandinavia, anti-EU parties contest European Parliamentary elections, but do not contest domestic elections, preferring to act as pressure groups, who accept members of all political persuasions. That might be a sensible approach for UKIP to adopt.
Given that the party has 17,000 members, more than either the BNP or the Greens, it is surprising that they cannot match those two partiesâ€™ performances in local elections. My own view is that they simply do not realise that success in local elections, particularly for a minor party, requires persistent campaigning on relevant local issues.
Although the BNP and the Greens feature immigration and the environment, respectively, heavily, in their literature, they do not campaign exclusively on such issues in local elections. UKIP need to learn that Europe is not likely to sway many voters in a local election campaign.
Last nightâ€™s by-elections were fairly good for Labour, disappointing for the Conservatives, and produced one spectacular result for the BNP.
Croydon LBC, Bensham Manor: Labour 1683, Conservative 617, Green 240, Lib Dem 126, UKIP 40 , OMRLP 15, People’s Choice, 9. Labour Hold. This showed a strong swing to Labour in a safe seat.
Nuneaton BC Bede: Labour 658, BNP 546, Conservative 301, LibDem 119, English Democrat 75, Save NHS 43, UKIP 8. Labour hold. The Conservatives came a close second here in 2004 and 2006, and really should have expected to take this seat, given recent local by-election results. Instead, Labour held it, and the BNP came from nowhere to win a close second place. The Labour vote here held up much better than the Cosnervative vote, which suggests the BNP did better among former Conservative voters than Labour voters.
Barnet LBC, East Barnet: Con 1666, Lab 1025, LD 552, Green 147. Conservative hold. This was a good result for the Conservatives, in a marginal ward.
Cornwall CC Penryn: LibDem 456, Independent 360, Conservative 207, Labour 94, Independent 63. LibDem hold.
Sean Fear is a London Tory activist