Last week saw UKIP gain a second MP. According to the BBC, the results were as follows:
Mark Reckless (UKIP) - 16,867 (42.10%)
Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative Party) - 13,947 (34.81%)
Naushabah Khan (Labour Party) - 6,713 (16.76%)
Clive Gregory (Green Party Of England and Wales) - 1,692 (4.22%)
Geoff Juby (Liberal Democrats) - 349 (0.87%)
A further eight minor parties and independent candidates stood, all of which came behind the Liberal Democrats.
UKIP’s win with 42% is around the amount predicted in the polls in the lead up to the by-election (43% Comres, 44% Ashcroft). UKIP’s win was expected, but it is still a remarkable achievement for a party that stood on the fringes of British politics only a few years ago.
UKIP now has more MPs than the Greens, but the challenge for Nigel Farage’s party is for it to sustain its momentum going into the general election. With the party consistently performing above 15% in the polls, it’s hard to see how the momentum will die, unless the situation alters dramatically.
Additionally, the party must now make sure it concentrates is resources well. In order for the party to get what it wants in 2015 it will need to hold some sway over the balance of power. With a hung-parliament looking likely, UKIP will need more than a handful of MPs, which under the right circumstances and with resources distributed in an efficient way, this could happen.
The Conservatives were delt a blow last night. They have lost two by-elections in recent months to UKIP, and there is a chance that more Tory MPs could defect and follow. However, the Conservatives performed better than they did in Clacton, where UKIP won well over 50% of the vote.
Whilst they suffered a loss, David Cameron’s party could have performed far worse. Furthermore, they still beat Labour, who were pushed into third place with less than 17% of the vote.
As for the Liberal Democrats, the party performed poorly with less than 1% of the vote. They lost their deposit, but they never had a chance of winning.
Whilst UKIP were the big success story of the night, the other was the Green party, whose candidate, Clive Gregory, almost attained 5% of the vote. If that had been achieved then they would have saved their deposit. Forcing the Lib Dems into fifth place is a good sign for Natalie Bennett’s party.
Overall, the night was a clear and confident win for UKIP. The worry now for David Cameron is that other Tory MPs could follow Carswell and Reckless. And even if they do not, UKIP’s two MPs will bang the UKIP drum and make their mark in the next six months in Westminster.
And who knows, but if Nigel Farage and UKIP play their cards right, then they might just end up holding the balance of power next May.