John Curtice: Ukip are the moral victors of Eastleigh

The party
has once again scaled heights that only a little while ago seemed unimaginable

There is only one party that can take much satisfaction from Eastleigh  – and despite their success in defending a seat in difficult circumstances, that party is not the Liberal Democrats.

It is the UK Independence Party who are the moral victors. Once again the party has scaled heights that only a little while ago seemed unimaginable. Its 27.8 per cebt share of the vote was no less than six points higher than its previous all-time high of 21.8 per cent in Rotherham at the end of November – and no less than double its score in Corby a fortnight before that.

Meanwhile, in pushing the Conservatives into third place, Ukip  could not have done more to demonstrate the futility of Tory hopes that promising a Euro-referendum would be enough to prick Nigel Farage’s bubble.

The roots of Ukip’s success lie much deeper than distrust of Brussels. The party has become the vehicle of protest for an electorate that is frustrated by falling living standards and unhappy at the sight of a government seemingly unable to turn the economy around - and which feels its concerns are at least being acknowledged by Ukip’s call to protect British jobs through ending the free flow of European Union immigration. Such discontent is more likely to be assuaged by signs of light at the end of the economic tunnel than by the prospect of some dim and distant referendum.

In the meantime, Lib Dem spokespersons were keen for us to believe their success was  a “stunning victory” that showed their prospects for 2015 were already nothing like as gloomy as the opinion polls would have us believe.

But a cold look at the statistics gives the lie to this claim. The party’s share of the vote was down by no less than 14.5 points on its tally in Eastleigh in 2010 – a drop every bit as big as that registered by the current national polls. Indeed, it was the third biggest drop ever suffered by the party in a post-war by-election.

Indeed, the Lib Dems’ 32.1 per cent is the lowest share of the vote to be secured by the winner in any post-war constituency by-election. The only reason the party held on to Eastleigh was because voters defected from their coalition partners, the Conservatives, just as rapidly as they did the Lib Dems themselves. And being part of an unloved marriage hardly seems like a solid foundation for future happiness and success.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own