After using my better judgement to not blog about the impact of the result at 3am last night, the morning after has understandably brought bad headlines for the Conservatives. Third place in one of their top target seats to take from the Lib Dems in 2015 is quite frankly unspinnable. This despite Grant Shapps best (worst?) efforts last night on the BBC election special to somehow portray this result as worse for Labour.
Labour’s vote held up- probably the best they could have hoped for in a by-election that started as a two-way fight between the Coalition partners, and ended with UKIP splitting them down the middle with huge momentum. The perceived wisdom is that if this by-election had gone on a week or two longer, UKIP would have ended up winning it- and that they actually outpolled the Lib Dems on the day. It seems that it was the lead that the Lib Dems had built up through postal votes was enough to see them through.
With UKIP’s vote rising by over 24% from 2010, they had to be gained from somewhere. The surprise is that it seemed to come almost equally from the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. The Conservatives losing votes to UKIP is no surprise- it has happened before, and will happen again in 2015 (the big question is to what extent), but the Lib Dems losing votes to UKIP is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s possible that this could be attributed to growing scepticism regarding the EU, but with ex-Lib Dem voters, it seems more likely that these are people who now see the Liberal Democrats as part of the political establishment, rather than as a protest vote. It will be extremely interesting to see if UKIP hoover up ex-protest votes from the Lib Dems in 2015.
So, the Lib Dems will be happy, UKIP will be ecstatic, the Conservatives will be disconsolate, and Labour will think that things went almost exactly as they expected. The next thing to look out for is the next wave of opinion polling- it will be interesting to see whether or not UKIP get a boost now that they have shown that they can fight these elections seriously. Diane James has shown that the party is not all about Nigel Farage, and this can only be good news for the anti-EU party.
In the medium-term, I am going to be trying to get some insight into the thoughts and predictions of some of the main pollsters- polling is going to gain more and more attention as we get closer to the 2015 election, and it would be great to find out some of their plans for polling frequency and any changes to methodology.