Comfortable Labour win in South Yorkshire takes heat off Miliband

Labour beat Ukip in Police Commissioner election

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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.”


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.”