There’s been a change in the Stoke central by-election betting with renewed interest in LAB and the move to Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, easing off.
The big gap between UKIP and the main parties is that the latter have much more expertise and the basic infrastructure required to mount effectively FPTP election campaigns. UKIP, as I keep on pointing out, has never gained a Westminster seat except with defector incumbents.
A critical element in contests like this is data. It was the lack of access to the Tory machine’s data resources in Richmond Park that organisationally impeded Zac’s campaign last month. LAB and the LDs will likely have a comprehensive history of contact with those on the electoral roll with essential information like those who are postal voters. The will be the focus over the next couple of weeks before the postal voting deadline.
A senior Conservative figure told me a couple of days ago that those of his colleagues who had worked with Vote Leave had been quite shocked at the lack of basic election expertise they’d found amongst UKIP colleagues during the referendum.
Now whether Paul Nuttall’s UKIP will be better we don’t know but they start from a long way behind.
During 2016 the UKIP vote declined in all but one of the Westminster by-elections that they fought. They’ve also experienced the worst retention rate in local council by-elections.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to pull it off but don’t overestimate their capabilities.