What are the chances for UKIP’s new leader?
On May 4th, less than five months away, the MP for Leigh and twice failed LAB leadership contender, Andy Burnham, will be the LAB candidate for the newly created elected mayoralty of Greater Manchester – a position which was very much the brain-child of George Osborne as part of his “Northern Powerhouse” project.
Ladbrokes make Burnham the 1/6 favourite to take what would be the most powerful elected mayoralty after London and it is very hard to see him failing. This is super solid Labour territory and Burnham is a high profile national figure.
What we don’t know is whether Burnham will step down as Leigh MP before May 4th which would enable Labour to hold the parliamentary by-election on the same day. This was done by Sir Peter Soulsby in Leicester South in 2011 when he ran and won the newly created Mayoralty of his city.
Holding the by-election on the same day as the other May elections would make it more challenging for other parties who would be focused elsewhere and would also mean less media interest in the Leigh by-election itself. My sense is this is what will happen.
Looking at the result Leigh is a classic Labour heartland seat where UKIP performed well at GE2015 but was a very long way behind Labour’s Burnham. In the June 23rd referendum the area was almost two to one to LEAVE.
But it is not all plain sailing:- The composition of Wigan council of which Leigh is part is:
So there is no councillor base there which is generally a good indication of organisation levels.
UKIP’s best ever Westminster by-election performance took place two years ago in the Greater Manchester seat of Heywood and Middleton where the purples came within 2.2% of victory. In December 2015 the party had great hopes of winning the Oldham West and Royton by-election and put in a huge effort. This was to no avail with Labour increasing its majority to 38.7%.
UKIP also saw its vote share fall in last week’s Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election.
Overall Leigh will be a big challenge for the new leader.