I blogged previously about the Sleaford by-election, predicting a Conservative win, a UKIP second, a Labour third or fourth, a LibDem third or fourth and a possible good result for a lady standing as “Lincolnshire Independent”. I said that, for me, the Labour and UKIP results would be the most interesting aspect of the contest. This was the actual result:
The 53.5% achieved by the Conservative candidate was in line with previous elections. Only in the Labour landslide of 1997 did the Conservative Party vote in Sleaford drop markedly and then only to 43.9%. The candidate in the by-election was a medical doctor (one of the most consistently trusted occupations), indeed a consultant paediatrician, as well as a woman following on from a perceived-as-arrogant male MP. From the party-political point of view, she was a good candidate.
The other candidates in the by-election were very much “also-rans”.
UKIP came second with a 13.5% vote. That is slightly below the 15.7% achieved at the 2015 General Election, which at the time was its best result by far. As I have been predicting elsewhere, UKIP generally has been failing to break through, its votes in both local and Westminster by-elections either dropping or just about holding up. The Sleaford result proves that UKIP made a big mistake in not following the Front National of France in going toward social nationalism, leaving UKIP as a wishy-washy and more nationalist form of Conservatism. The still fairly recent Batley and Spen by-election, when UKIP followed the Conservatives and LibDems in not standing a candidate (out of supposed “respect” for the assassinated Labour MP), showed UKIP’s sad desire to become a System party by aping the existing ones. Result? Ignominy and irrelevance. The Sleaford result bolsters my view that UKIP peaked in 2014 and is now washed-up as an insurgent force.
The Liberal Democrats achieved 11% in the by-election, above the 5.7% of the 2015 General Election and in line with previous elections (18.2% in both 2010 and 2005; 16.2% in 2001). Even taking into account the political sympathies of the coastal East Midlands, unsympathetic to the Liberal Democrats and their pro-EU, pro-mass immigration views, this shows that there is no Liberal Democrat resurgence. No-one in Sleaford voted LibDem as an alternative to either Conservative or Labour.
Labour’s result in the by-election was, at 10.2%, well below its 2015 General Election vote (17.3%) and the similar 2010 result (16.9%). In 2005, Labour was on 26.5%; in 2001, 32% and in 1997, 34.3%. The direction of travel for Labour is unmistakable: Labour is going straight down. 34% to 10% in less than 20 years. To my way of thinking, the Sleaford by-election result mirrors what is happening in England generally (Labour already having been binned in Scotland). Labour is, even more than the other System parties, yesterday’s news. It offers almost nothing to people; and its medium-term future is as a niche party for about 20% of the electorate (public-sector employees, some ethnic minorities, some metro-liberals, some of those who are in trade unions, NGOs etc). It may be that Sleaford Labour’s choice of candidate, a thick-sounding dustman or ex-dustman, did not help, but I doubt that anything would have helped Labour to do better.
The only thing left to say about the Sleaford by-election is that the lady standing as Linconshire Independent did (as I predicted) better than before. On previous occasions, her votes were 6.4% and then 5.2%. This time she managed 8.8%.
In summary: Conservatives coasting, UKIP stagnating, LibDems nowhere, Labour gone.