Auteur: Benjamin Fox
BRUSSELS - Ukip continued its insurgency into mainstream British politics on Thursday night (20 November), claiming its second by-election victory in as many months.
Ukip candidate Mark Reckless took the Rochester and Strood constituency on the south-east coast on a swing of over 30 percent from David Cameron's Conservative party. Reckless, whose defection from the Conservative party prompted the snap election, received 16,867 votes, 2,920 more than Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst's 13,947.
Labour's Naushabah Khan was a distant third on 6,713 votes, a 15 percent drop in support since the 2010 election in a seat that it held between 1997 and 2010.
The by-election was doubly embarrassing for Labour whose MP Emily Thornberry, the party's shadow attorney general, resigned after tweeting a picture of a house in Rochester draped in St George’s flags, a move seen as snobbery towards working-class voters.
Reckless followed MP Douglas Carswell, who in October became the first member of Ukip to win a seat in the House of Commons, having also defected from the Conservatives.
The result was not as decisive in Ukip's favour as opinion polls had suggested but still piles more pressure on Cameron and the opposition Labour party. Both parties have recently unveiled plans to restrict EU migration and migrants' access to welfare benefits in a bid to head off Ukip, which has put unlimited EU migration at the top of its list of reasons to exit the 28-country bloc.
In his victory speech, Reckless told supporters that Ukip would "give you back your country”.
He also distanced himself from suggestions that he supported the repatriation of EU migrants, commenting that “they’re now here as part of our country, and they will always be welcome”.
Farage says that at least two more Conservative MPs will defect to his party in the coming weeks, although Conservative chief whip Michael Gove stated that he was "100 percent sure" that there would be no further defections.
Conservative leaders say that voting for Nigel Farage's party increases the chance of Labour winning next May's general election.
Ukip continues to perform best in traditionally Conservative areas leading to Cameron's party to say that voting Ukip risks "letting Ed Miliband sneak into Downing Street by the back door".
Speaking last night, Farage said that he was “looking forward to next year’s general election."
“All bets are off, the whole thing’s up in the air,” he added.
Ukip believe that it can win up to 20 seats next May, potentially leaving them as king-makers following an election that appears increasingly unlikely to give either the Conservatives or Labour a parliamentary majority.