Cllrs Anna Firth and Kelly Tolworth: the CON contenders in the all postal primary to be candidate in Rochester pic.twitter.com/ct6a9BRni3
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) October 21, 2014
But what is good – this is a by-election first?
On Thursday we’ll get the results of the unique all postal primary that the Tories have carried out to choose their Candidate for the November 20th Rochester & Strood by-election. This is the first time that any party has chosen a by-election candidate in this manner and for me the key number will be how many of the 70k+ electors in the constituency have actually participated.
Only two such primaries have been carried out before. At the first at Totnes in Devon in 2009 ahead of the 2010 General Election 24.6% bothered to fill in the postal ballot forms and return them. A month or so later in Gosport the turnout was 17.8%. The big differences between Rochester and those two are that the process is taking place over such a shorter period and, of course, turnouts in by-elections themselves are almost always lower than at general elections.
Taking everything into account if participation in Rochester is in the 15-20% region then the blues can be pleased.
What the primary process has done is to increase awareness of the election and the two contenders. Whoever wins, of course, is fighting the incumbent, Mark Reckless, who has had huge media coverage following his defection to UKIP. There can be little doubt that the massive success that Douglas Carswell had in Clacton will have provided a boost to Reckless and his party. The momentum generally had been with UKIP since as we’ve seen from record Westminster polling shares for the party.
Ladbrokes and SkyBet have been operating a markets on the primary and Kelly Torworth, the one on the right in the picture, is odds on favourite.
All the counting and election processing had been carried out by the Electoral Reform Society. The turnout will be a pointer to how much interest the Tories have been able to generate in their campaign.
One thing’s for sure – the turnout level will be higher than the South Yorkshire Police Commissioner election taking place next week.