ROTHERHAM: A case of mass abstention

UKip shows once again that it lacks the killer instinct

One could be forgiven (reading the Telegraph website at 6 am today) for thinking that perhaps the Rotherham by-election had been abandoned due to a waterlogged local council. Labour win all three of last night’s by-elections, and yet somehow the Sarkists didn’t think this worth reporting. I must ask Justice Leveson why when next we meet.

No doubt Nigel Barrage will be out and about today trumpeting another gallant failure by the UKippers: Dan Hannan is already in the blogs saying that UKip is now the main opposition to Labour in the North. Both of these versions offer a melodramatic version of last night’s events in Rotherham.

If you look at the turnout in Rotherham, it’s immediately apparent that turnout halved compared to the General Election. With a scandal-profile this high (and a UKip supposedly on the verge of a great victory) low turnout is unusual even for a by-election. Past results suggest that when a newcomer is in with a chance – and the incumbent is clearly corrupt – turnout can be very high indeed.

On the night, Labour’s share of the vote stayed fairly steady, falling only 3.4%. So ‘Labour majority halved’ is a meaningless screamer when turnout halved as well. This does of course mean that – yet again – a parachuted Head Office clone is going to be returned to Westminster with under a quarter of the votes cast – and under 15% of the support of the electorate. But what it doesn’t represent is a breakthrough for UKip: rather, it’s a case of same old same old for the Faragistas.

Rather than shifting to UKip, Tory voters abstained – pushing their Party back into 5th place. Given the obvious chance for tactical voting to create a damaging defeat for the Ed Miller Band, this is very bad news for Farage: it suggests, in fact, that UKip is on the whole an unpalateable tactical vote for Conservatives.

Labour voters couldn’t be bothered to turn up. Whether this was due to disgust and alienation (or the alternative of another X-Factor behind-the-scenes repeat on ITV 17i) remains uncertain. What they didn’t do is move over to UKip in droves.

For once, David Cameron has shown political shrewdness in ridiculing UKip. His arrogance in doing so infuriates people, but it does seem to be taken at face value by traditional Tories. For Nigel Garage, meanwhile, it’s a massive missed opportunity. I know UKippers don’t like me saying it, but the evidence just keeps on piling up: on the ground, the Party’s get-the-vote-out organisation is hackneyed and shambolic.

However, as I blogged last Monday, the main story of this election has been lost, and thus yet another merry band of child abusers remains free to continue its work of promoting the full rainbow of sexual experience.

Finally, I cannot resist sharing this with you. After this poor turnout in Rotherham, the news is confirmed that the Government is concerned about the 14.5% turnout at the PCC elections . So there’s going to be……an enquiry.