UKIP has its second elected MP at Westminster after Mark Reckless won the Rochester and Strood by-election yesterday.
Reckless took 16,867 votes, 2,920 more than Tory Kelly Tolhurst’s 13,947, with Labour’s Naushabah Khan on 6,713 – ahead of the Green Party. The Lib Dems came fifth with 349 votes their lowest vote total in a by-election.
UKIP’s winning margin was smaller than it was in Clacton, but Reckless still won 42.1% of the votes cast, on a turnout of 50,67%. Reckless travelled soon after to London to take his seat in Parliament.
A humiliated PM Cameron, who had visited Rochester five times during the by-election campaign, was reduced to a pretence that he was happy to be second best.
He said: ‘This result was closer than the forecasters predicted. I am absolutely determined to win this seat back because absolutely anything other than a Conservative government will put our recovery at risk and mean Ed Miliband in Downing Street.’
‘I am more determined than ever that we deliver security for Britain.’
After the Tories lost last month’s Clacton by-election to UKIP, Cameron promised to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at the Rochester campaign.
Meanwhile Labour’s Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry was the first Labour casualty of the UKIP victory.
She was forced to resign from the Labour front bench just hours before the result was announced after being accused of ‘sneering’ and ‘snobbery’ by tweeting a photo of a Rochester house with St George flags and a white van outside.
In his acceptance speech on Friday morning, MP Reckless said Rochester and Strood had been UKIP’s 271st most winnable seat adding ‘if UKIP can win here, we can win across the country’.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage denied the result was simply a protest vote against the government, or that voters would return to the larger parties in the general election.
He said the message of Rochester and Strood was: ‘If you vote UKIP, you get UKIP’ and ‘people out there who vote UKIP intend to stay UKIP’.
UKIP’s victory underlines the demoralisation of the Tory Party. A 9,000 Tory majority was lost and this after the Conservatives had strained every sinew to halt the UKIP bandwagon. UKIP now insists no Tory seat is safe and has suggested other Conservative MPs are more likely to defect.
Young Socialists National Secretary Joshua Ogunleye commented: ‘The second UKIP by-election victory shows that the Tory Party is being broken apart by the crisis of capitalism.
‘Cameron and Osborne are men of straw. However the Labour Party is determined to prop up capitalism. It refuses to fight for socialism and won’t take advantage of the crisis to bring down the Tories with a struggle for socialist policies.
‘After the Rochester by-election result the governent has lost any authority it had. Now is the time when the trade unions must be made to take action by their millions of members.
‘Workers must demand a general strike to bring down the Tories and to go forward to a workers government and socialism.’