Like everyone else, I watched the Eastleigh by-election with a great deal of interest recently, cheering when my party won. Then there came the inevitable post-election wondering about the percentages the parties earned and what it means for the future. I love playing with numbers, so I indulged in a little hypothetical exercise.
% in 2010
It's fascinating, for example, to plug in the percentages to an electoral calculator like www.electoralcalculus.co.uk which would show Labour with only 21 seats nationally, at that rate! The results for UKIP are far harder to assess than other parties, because I haven't found a good predictor site. Even the usual poll sites seem reluctant to take them seriously, and their results are often not shown. So let's play with the numbers to try and see how significant this result really is.
2011 Barnsley 12.2% of the vote: Labour win.
2012 (Mar) Bradford W 3.3% of vote: Respect win.
(Nov) Corby 14.3% of vote: Labour win.
Croydon 5.7% of vote: Labour win.
Middlesbrough 11.8% of vote: Labour win.
Rotherham 21.7% of vote: Labour win.
In general, UKIP has seen an increase in their share of the vote, incumbency factors aside. So how can we get a good idea of how well they'll do? In recent years they've been doubling, then tripling their vote. In Eastleigh, the rise is from 3.6% in 2010 to 27.8% in 2013, a sevenfold increase (or 772% if you like) in their vote, with gains from all parties, plus some people who haven't chosen to vote in recent elections.
Where did UKIP vote come from? (Survation poll)
Other (new voters)
Prediction of UKIP in other seats is more difficult because it's difficult to extrapolate from a LibDem held seat to Labour, for example. Using the evidence of Rotherham and Middlesbrough (Labour) and Corby (Con) though, it seems that the rise in the UKIP vote isn't really tied to competition against any one political party: their numbers creep upwards regardless. So let's see what would happen if the UKIP vote increased by our sevenfold figure in the North of England, also winning 31% of the vote, as in Eastleigh, from the two major parties in the constituency. (And remember, it could have been more if they'd had time) The UKIP initial % is from the 2010 election, or a previous electoral vote if there was no candidate in 2010, so that gives us an idea if they are strong in a particular area. I didn't add the 15% of people who haven't voted in a while. Newcastle has never ever had a UKIP candidate(!) so I took the 2010 overall northern average vote for that constituency:-
Northern England: Predicted UKIP Vote
(2 strongest parties reduced by 31% as in Eastleigh)
UKIP vote % previously
UKIP % x 7.72
Playing with numbers admittedly, but still some interesting results:-
We have UKIP actually winning some seats, and several other seats are in danger, given the "runaway factors" UKIP seems to be prone to. The seats which appear to be in danger are:-
1. Redcar - This is held by Ian Swales for the LibDems. He has a majority of 5,214 and has 45.17% of the vote. Labour holds 32.75% and the Conservatives hold 13.8% of the vote. Factor in the UKIP support and LibDem percentages would drop considerably. Even with a small fall in Labour support, UKIP could win, or at least have a very lose competition with them. We know Labour are going to fiercely compete for the seat, and it's difficult to predict UKIP's effect on them, but certainly any fall in the LibDem vote, such as a protest vote swing, would leave them both an opening.
2. Hartlepool - The highest UKIP support in the North in 2010, this seat is held by Iain Wright for Labour. His majority is presently 5,509, with an electoral share of 42.54%. He has strong competition from the Conservatives, at 28.13%. A seven fold increase in UKIP support would give them 54%, winning the seat, as Labour is reduced to 38% and the Conservatives come third.
3. Berwick upon Tweed - Held by Alan Beith for the LibDems of course, but known to be a target for the Tories in the next election. Presently, he has a majority of 2690, at 43.72%, with Conservatives at 36.72% and Labour at 13.17%. The vote share makes it closely mirror Eastleigh, so perhaps the parallels we can draw are closest. My predictions suggest that in an Eastleigh competition, both the LibDems and Conservatives would have their votes reduced to around 19%, whilst UKIP would win 24% of the vote!
In addition, some seats have dangerously high levels of UKIP support, threatening to push back main party support:-
1. Easington - Graham Morris holds this seat for Labour, with a present majority of 14,982, but also the second highest UKIP support in the last election. Therefore, a runaway Eastleigh type election would reduce his support to around 48%, with UKIP on a threatening 36%.
2. Jarrow - Stephen Hepburn holds this for Labour with a majority of 12,908 and 53% of the vote. The UKIP support is difficult to predict, since they didn't field a candidate in 2010, but had high support in 2005. Anyway, I predict a reduced majority of 46% and a threatening UKIP 35%.
3. Blyth Valley - Ronnie Campbell holds this seat for Labour, with a majority of 6,668 and 44.48%, with the Conservatives on 27.19%. The prediction is that he holds his seat at 40% but UKIP has a dangerous 33%.
4. Stockton North - This is held by Alex Cunningham for Labour, with a majority of 6,676 and 42.85%. The Conservatives have 25.94% and LibDems 16.06%. I predict that the LibDems and Tories will lose a lot of support, leaving a close contest between Labour and UKIP, WITH Labour just winning at 38% whilst UKIP will have 30%.
5. Middlesbrough South - This is held by Tom Blenkinsop for Labour with a majority of 1,677 and 39.25%. The Conservatives have 35.62% and LibDems have 15.88%. This is going to be a target Conservative seat with that close a margin, but if UKIP support continues, as I believe it will, UKIP at 31% will give Labour a hard fight.
All hypothetical fun, of course, but with a serious purpose. I believe that particularly contested seats, with a high percentage of Tory/right inclined swing voters, and three way marginal seats where all parties are at war will be most open to UKIP gains. In contrast, some areas, like Hexham and Westmoreland Tynemouth seem to have far smaller UKIP percentages than might be expected.
Particular markers to watch out for are high levels of UKIP support in previous elections (e.g. Hartlepool), and close LibDem/Tory/Labour percentages.
Place your bets...