Labour has seen off an electoral challenge from Ukip in its South Yorkshire stronghold – steadying the party’s nerves following disastrous opinion poll findings in Scotland.
Party strategists had feared they could lose the by-election for a new Police and Crime Commissioner following the departure of the previous incumbent who had to resign following the exposure of the Rotherham child exploitation scandal.
He was the councillor who oversaw children’s services in the town between 2005 and 2010 and Ukip made Labour’s role in the abuse of more than 1,400 children a key element in its campaign.
But in the end Labour won on the first round of counting with its candidate Alan Billings securing 50.02 per cent, with Ukip’s Jack Clarkson in second place on 31.66 per cent. The Conservatives came third with 12.52 per cent while the Liberal Democrats did not even field a candidate. However the turnout was only 14.8 per cent.
A senior Labour source said they “took Ukip on and won” despite Nigel Farage’s claim he was putting his “tanks on Labour’s lawn”.
Dr Billings said: “In political terms it brings the Ukip advance to a shuddering halt in South Yorkshire and I think that they’re deeply disappointed to do so badly. That’s very gratifying for us because I think that if we can turn the tide here we can turn it in other places as well.”
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
1/8 1993: Alan Sked forms Ukip
History professor Alan Sked had been active in anti-EU politics for a while beore he founded Ukip in 1993. He resigned from the party after the 1997 election, concerned that it was attracting far-right members, and has been critical of Ukip since. Picture: Reuters
2/8 2005: Kilroy defects
Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk founded Veritas in 2005, after a failed bid to become leader, and took many of Ukip's elected members with him. But the party slowly lost its popularity and didn't put forward any candidates in the last election. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty REUTERS KD/RUS
3/8 2010: Farage becomes leader, again
Farage had led Ukip from 2006 until 2009, when he stood down to fight against the Speaker, John Bercow, for his Buckingham seat. He failed to win the election and returned to lead the party in November 2010. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
4/8 2010: Ukip fights for election
Nigel Farage was injured in a plane crash on polling day in the 2010 general election, but his party increased its success in the votes. It fielded 572 candidates and took 3.1% of the vote, though failed to win any seats. REUTERS/Darren Staples
5/8 2013: Eastleigh gains
Ukip's candidate Diane James got the highest ever number of votes for any candidate from the party, but was beaten by the Liberal Democrats. The surge in support gave Ukip confidence ahead of local and European elections later in the year. Picture: Reuters
6/8 2013: Bloom kicked out
Godfrey Bloom, who served as an Ukip MEP from 2004 to 2014, had the whip withdrawn in 2013 after sexist comments and an attack on a journalist. He sat as an independent MEP until 2014, when he ended his term in office. Picture: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
7/8 2014: European election success
Ukip got a higher proportion of the vote than any other party in 2014's European elections, adding 11 new MEPs and taking its total to 24. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
8/8 2014: Carswell defects
Douglas Carswell defected from Ukip at the end of August, and was followed by Mark Reckless at the end of September, who resigned from the Tories amid rumours of many more defections to come. Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville
Before the vote, Tony Blair had urged Labour not to “end up chasing after the policies of a party like Ukip, who you don’t agree with, whose policies would take this country backwards economically, politically, in every conceivable way”. He said that “ultimately, at the heart of what they do” there was “a rather nasty core of prejudice that none of us believe in, which you’ve actually got to take on and fight.”
Yesterday Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, warned that the “ever more parochial” attitude to immigration in the UK was “positively detrimental” to higher education. He said government efforts to restrict immigration were likely to “damage British national interests”.
Labour saw off the Ukip threat fairly comfortably in Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley but in Rotherham Ukip came within 800 votes of winning.
Mr Clarkson, a former policeman, insisted the result showed that Ukip “are in there now” and warned Labour they will have “to be looking over their shoulder at us”. He called for a criminal investigation into the Rotherham scandal.
“I want a criminal investigation. We don’t want candy floss and forgiveness. We want a criminal investigation into what took place involving these children. And that involves the police, social services, council officials, councillors and any other agency. I believe there was collusion, assistance and turning of a blind eye, which is just as bad. If Mr Billings doesn’t get this right, believe you me, there’ll be people again demonstrating on the streets of Rotherham. They’re wanting to see action.”
He said the turnout was “very poor” and added: “South Yorkshire is a hard nut to crack but I’ll tell you what – Ukip are in there now and Labour have got to be looking over their shoulder at us.”Reuse content