On Thursday 8 December, the by-election for the Westminster seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham will be held. Details about the constituency and its electoral history can be found here:
Conservative, Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats are all putting up candidates and last time (2015) finished in that order. Marianne Overton, “Lincolnshire Independent”, is also standing. That last is more than the usual “Independent” joke or vanity candidate; she is an MBE-holder who, in 2015, received 3,233 votes (5.2%–only about 260 votes below the LibDem), saving her deposit. There are three other Independents standing (one with Green Party support) and the inevitable laugh-in candidates, this time the Bus Pass Elvis Party and the Monster Raving Loony Party.
This is a big test for UKIP, which in Sleaford started off in 2001 with about 1,000 votes, exceeded 2,000 in both 2005 and 2010 and peaked at nearly 10,000 in 2015, in third place, only about 900 votes short of Labour ( which itself came in second after the Conservative, who won having received nearly 35,000 votes). In 2010, UKIP finished in fifth place (after the Lincolnshire Independent).
UKIP has a lot to prove, after its recent downturns in local council by-elections and after the farcical circus of its leadership contests. My own prediction is that UKIP’s vote might hold up, in the absence of any alternative non-System party standing. However, I cannot see UKIP doing substantially better (if at all) than it did in 2015. A real social nationalist party might be able to run the Conservative close, but UKIP will not be able to do that or anything like it.
The Labour vote in Sleaford has shrunk from over 18,000 in 1997, through 15,000 and 14,000 in 2001 and 2005, to less than 11,000 in both 2010 and 2015. In view of Corbyn-Labour’s disastrous “policy” of having effectively no immigration control at all, I doubt whether Labour will do well. A startlingly bad result for Labour will surely be regarded as though a trumpet blast by the Angel of the Revelation: a wake-up call or a portent of upcoming oblivion.
The LibDems are probably facing a lost deposit unless they can persuade enough former LibDem voters, with some former Labour and Conservative voter support, to vote LD. In past elections, the LibDems did well, peaking in 2010 with 18.2%, but that was then. In 2015, their 5.7% reflected the party’s 5 years as a doormat for the Conservatives. Whether they can save their deposit and even retain fourth place is open, bearing in mind LD support for mass immigration and the EU, in a region generally anti-immigration and anti-EU; but it is an open question, the LibDems being the cockroach survivors of British politics.
The Conservative Party candidate will win. The only question is by how much.
For me, the interest in the by-election contest centres around Labour and UKIP. I think that UKIP will probably be able to beat Labour into third place. I also think it possible that Labour will find itself in fourth place. A by-election worth watching.
Update Note 9 December 2016: I shall be writing a separate blog post now that the Sleaford by-election is over. This was the result: