The Clacton by-election is thought to be a shoo-in for the newly ordained Ukip candidate Douglas Carswell – and now the second defector to rock local politics, Mark Reckless, is also on par to win the seat he stepped down from, according to a new opinion poll.
Mr Reckless, whose shock resignation from both the Conservatives and his seat in Rochester and Strood was played out on stage at the Ukip party conference in South Yorkshire last weekend, is in a nine-point lead ahead of the Tories.
The survey, by the Mail on Sunday, put Ukip on course to win the by-election with 40 per cent compared to the 31 per cent enjoyed the Conservatives. Labour was on 25 per cent and the Lib Dems a miserly two.
Of those questioned, 40 per cent of those who voted for the Conservatives in the 2010 General Election said they will switch to Ukip, in spite of warnings by Prime Minister David Cameron that a protest vote could help to usher in Labour government.
Mr Cameron’s assertion, however, has been rejected by the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society, which says that Ukip’s “rising tide” is a “very serious” threat to Labour’s chances in 22 key seats.
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
There had reportedly been a negative reception welcoming Mr Reckless and Ukip leader Nigel Farage when the two tried to stage a walkabout in Rochester after the defection announcement. He has since been rallying support in the area.
Mr Reckless, who does not enjoy the constituent following that Mr Carswell does in Clacton, was given a grilling by his constituents, while former Tory colleagues were also trying to get an audience with him.
Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps had, at the time, called Mr Reckless’ defection a “betrayal” and accused the MP of lying about his intentions, or not, to switch allegiances.
On the reasons behind their choice, 12 per cent of those in Kent said it was because they liked the candidate – compared to the 34 per cent of Clacton voters who gave this reason for Mr Carswell – while a huge 70 per cent said it was because they support the Eurosceptic party’s policies.
“If our polling, representing a snapshot of opinion taken in Rochester and Strood between October 1-3, reflects the final outcome of the by-election, the Conservative Party will be deeply worried,” Survation Chief Executive Damian Lyons Lowe said.
He added: “Should Reckless become Ukip's second ever-elected MP - despite the Conservative campaign machine threatening to 'throw the kitchen sink' at the election - certain Conservative MPs may conclude that it is actually safer for their careers to cross the floor to Ukip than stand and fight Farage's insurgency.”
The by-election is expected to take place in early November. Mr Carswell’s seat in Clacton will go to the votes this Thursday on 9 October.Reuse content