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UK Politics

Newark by-election: Bad news for Ukip as political invasion pays off for Conservatives

Poll shows Tories are now 15 points ahead, with Labour trailing in third

With just two days to go until the by-election in Newark, the Nottinghamshire town has faced a deluge of politicians across every party.

It is the Conservatives who have gone all out, however - nervous of the damage a win for Ukip would do, the party has reportedly ordered every single one of its MPs to visit the constituency at least three times before Thursday’s ballot.

On David Cameron’s fourth trip he spoke to a group of workers, and told them: “A dog is for life not just for Christmas, it's a bit the same with your Member of Parliament.”

All the canvassing has prompted something of a local backlash, with one quick-witted businessman setting up an offer of 50p per “single egg for throwing” – encouraging market-goers to “pick a politician”.

But all the activity seems to have paid off, with a poll from Lord Ashcroft suggesting the Tories now have a significant lead among prospective voters.

Researchers asked a sample of 1,000 adults in the constituency which party they planned to back come Thursday, with the Conservatives coming out top on 42 per cent.

Ukip were a full 15 points behind, while Labour trailed in third on 20 per cent. Though it won’t be the most embarrassing result in recent elections for the Lib Dems, on just 6 per cent they faced the very real prospect of losing their deposit.

Lord Ashcroft also released figures showing 70 per cent of voters planning to back Ukip's Roger Helmer in the by-election admitted to doing so in a general protest to show they were unhappy with “all the main parties”.

And the poll showed a majority of Ukip supporters - more than six in 10 - said they were only backing Nigel Farage's party as “a message” that they were unhappy with whoever they would ordinarily support.

Speaking yesterday as he supported the Tory candidate Robert Jenrick, the Prime Minister said he understood the “temptations” of a protest vote and sad that was “absolutely people’s right”.

“You choose. You're my boss - you're his boss. If you think he'd do a good job, vote for him; if you think I do a good job, vote for me at the next election. If you want to get rid of me at the next election, vote for someone else,” he said.

Labour’s Ed Balls and deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman were also in Newark to support their candidate Michael Payne. With little prospect of success in the vote this week itself, the shadow Chancellor said his party were there “laying the foundations for a General Election that is less than 12 months away”.

The other eight candidates standing in Thursday's election are: David Watts for the Liberal Democrats; David Kirwan from the Green Party; two independents Paul Baggaley and Andy Hayes; Lee Woods from the Patriotic Socialist Party; David Bishop from the Bus Pass Elvis Party; Dick Rodgers from Stop Commercial Banks Owning Britain's Money and Nick The Flying Brick from The Official Monster Raving Loony Party.