UK Politics

Rochester and Strood: What result means party by party

Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless Image copyright Press Association

Before we look at the by-election party by party, let's sum it up in a sentence.

It was a great night for UKIP, a bruising night for the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.


Before we start dissecting margins of victory, let's step back for a moment. For years winning a seat at Westminster was the itch UKIP was desperate to scratch, but couldn't.

It has now done it twice in as many months.

UKIP has two elected MPs - two MPs who can stand up and make life awkward in the Commons for the bigger parties, two MPs who are walking and talking proof the party can win elections to the Commons.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nigel Farage's party now has two representatives on the green benches

Psychologically that is huge. Huge for UKIP, and hugely wounding for the big three parties at Westminster.

Granted, Mark Reckless's margin of victory in Rochester and Strood was much smaller than Douglas Carswell's in Clacton. But, as UKIP activists will fall over themselves to remind us, this was much less fertile territory for them than the Essex coast.

And only a few weeks ago any sort of win for UKIP here looked a tall order. But they managed it.


The Conservatives have lost to UKIP. Again. But the party can find solace in two sources of comfort.

Firstly, while they did lose, they weren't stuffed - and that gives local activists and observers at Westminster alike confidence they can win this seat back at the general election.

Secondly, on a day where they feared all the grim headlines would be coming their way, Labour have contrived to ensure they are taking their fair share too.

Image copyright Associated Press
Image caption David Cameron visited the constituency five times to campaign

The Tories promised to throw the kitchen sink at this campaign. The prime minister campaigned in the constituency on five occasions and vowed to prevent Mark Reckless getting "his fat arse back on to the green benches" of the Commons.

And yet, Mr Reckless's posterior, large or otherwise, is being reunited with that green leather of the Palace of Westminster.

And what happened to that kitchen sink? Well, it didn't work. And to remind the Tories of this, UKIP is planning to present them with a real kitchen sink.


Labour's ambitions in this by-election were nothing if not modest. Finish a credible third and then stand back and watch the Conservative jitters provoked by another UKIP win.

But a single photograph posted on Twitter by shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry rather did for that. The backlash was immediate, online and locally.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption The tweet was posted on polling day in Rochester

Chatting to some local butchers in Strood this morning, they were dripping with derision for what they saw as her snobbishness.

Emily Thornberry's tweet leaves many within Labour seething. They are livid that a single image will allow their critics to portray Ed Miliband's party as out of touch with the electorate.

And they are livid too that on the morning after the Conservatives have once again been beaten by UKIP, Labour is still generating headlines it could do without.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dem candidate Geoff Juby has been the political equivalent here of the Philae Lander on Comet 67P: apparently billions of miles from support from HQ and reliant on only his own batteries.

Image caption Geoff Juby said his leader Nick Clegg was "not really needed" in the campaign

And after a string of by-elections that brought dire results for the party, this was their worst ever. Less than 1% of the vote, and just a few hundred people turning out for them.

Believe it or not, there is a clear-headed strategy behind what looks like meek surrender to another ritual whacking at the hands of the electorate.

Rochester and Strood is no-hope territory for Nick Clegg's party, so precious general election funds are best saved to be spent in seats in the coming months where they have a chance of clinging on.

But 0.8% of the vote even in a no-hoper of a seat is desperate - as bad as it has ever got for Nick Clegg's party.

The Greens

The Greens are upbeat. The party is riding high - for them - in the polls and they have once again seen off the Liberal Democrats in a by-election, getting five times as many votes as Westminster's third party.

A YouGov poll for the Sun earlier this week put the Greens on 8%, the highest they have ever managed with that pollster.

Image caption Clive Gregory said the Green Party was the only "true opposition"

But they didn't come close to that in Rochester and Strood - managing just over 4%.

That won't stop activists missing a chance to talk about their rising membership numbers, now standing at almost 27,000, a figure up 87% since January of this year.

For them, their focus is all about getting the Green message out, talking up what they see as a "Green surge" and putting in a performance that helps with their campaign against the broadcasters for excluding them from their planned general election debates.