Rochester and Strood by-election, 2014
The Rochester and Strood by-election was a by-election for the UK parliamentary constituency of Rochester and Strood in Kent, England, held on 20 November 2014. The by-election was triggered when the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Reckless, left the Conservative Party and joined the UK Independence Party (UKIP). He resigned his seat in Parliament in order to seek re-election for his new party.
Rochester and Strood constituency
Reckless retained the seat, and polled 42.1% of the vote as the UKIP candidate. The Conservative Party came second with 34.8%, and Labour third with 16.8%. The other ten candidates lost their deposits, including the Liberal Democrats whose 0.87% vote share was a record low for them, and the lowest ever for a party in government.
This was the last by-election of the 2010-2015 Parliament.
Reckless's announcement followed that of his parliamentary colleague and close friend, Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP on 28 August 2014, resigning and subsequently being returned as MP for Clacton, in north Essex. On 27 September, at the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Annual Conference at Doncaster, which coincided with the eve of the Conservative Party Annual Conference, Reckless announced his plans to follow suit. Carswell won the Clacton by-election (on 9 October 2014) with 59.7% of the vote.
Reckless had previously been recognised as one of the most malcontent Conservatives in the House of Commons, having led a rebellion of 53 Conservative MPs over the EU Budget which inflicted the first Commons defeat on the Con-LibDem Coalition Government.
Mark Reckless was the UKIP parliamentary candidate.
The Conservative Party fielded Kelly Tolhurst as its candidate selected by a postal open primary; Anna Firth was the other candidate, and both were serving Councillors: (Tolhurst representing Rochester West Ward on Medway Council, and Firth representing Brasted, Chevening & Sundridge Ward on Sevenoaks Council). The result of the primary was announced on 23 October, with Tolhurst winning narrowly with 50.44% of the vote. The Conservative Party reported that 5,688 voters took part in the selection process.
Four independent candidates also declared their candidature: Mike Barker MBE,Christopher "JustQCharley" Challis, Stephen Goldsbrough and Charlotte Rose. Barker is a former MoD scientist who ran on a campaign of making the SS Richard Montgomery safe. Rose had stood in October's Clacton by-election in Essex, describing herself as "standing up for sexual freedom".
The results were declared at 04:15 UTC on Friday, 21 November 2014.
Reckless retained the seat (though now with his new party) with 16,867 votes, a majority of 2,920, with just over 42% of the vote (he received 49.2% of the vote as the Conservative candidate in 2010). This was the second highest UKIP vote share in a parliamentary election after the contest in Clacton the previous month, and represents a swing of 28.3% from Conservative to UKIP. (For a comparison with other high swings, see United Kingdom by-election records).
The Conservatives came second, with their share of the vote decreasing by 14.4 percentage points compared with the 2010 general election, and Labour's share decreased by 11.7 points.
The 4.2% polled by the Green Party was their best result since the 2010 General Election, while the Liberal Democrats recorded their lowest vote share since their founding in 1988. It was also lower than any of their Liberal predecessors had polled since the First World War.
|Liberal Democrat||Geoff Juby||349||0.9||15.5|
|Monster Raving Loony||Hairy Knorm Davidson||151||0.4||N/A|
|People Before Profit||Nick Long||69||0.2||N/A|
|Britain First||Jayda Fransen||56||0.1||N/A|
|Patriotic Socialist Party||Dave Osborn||33||0.1||N/A|
|UKIP gain from Conservative||Swing||28.3 %|
The election was widely regarded as a key contest between UKIP and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives, being in Government and previous holders of the seat, had the privilege of choosing the timing of polling day, and opted for a later election giving time for a longer campaign and to select its candidate by way of a local primary, which also enabled them to engage with the electorate. As a consequence, there was discussion over whether the costs of the primary should be entered under the party's permitted election expense allowance, as UKIP argued, or not, as the Conservatives argued.
The election agent for Mark Reckless was Chris Irvine who was himself a Conservative Councillor on Medway Council representing Peninsula Ward at the time of Mark Reckless defecting. Irvine promptly resigned as a Conservative Party member on the news of the Reckless defection and sat as an Independent Councillor citing Medway Council's decision to approve planning permission to develop Lodge Hill as his primary reason for leaving. Irvine would subsequently resign his seat on Medway Council after joining UKIP to force a further local by-election in Peninsula ward to be held on the same day as the Parliamentary by-election. Irvine would become the first elected UKIP Councillor on Medway Council, taking just under 50% of the vote.
Michael Crick, of Channel 4 News, reported that the Labour Party was conducting a "token effort", because according to party sources, Labour claimed not to be able to afford a full electoral campaign. Rochester and Strood's predecessor seat, Medway, had been held for Labour by Bob Marshall-Andrews between 1997 and 2010. Marshall-Andrews had been elected despite his very different stance on immigration, telling a voter during the 2001 election campaign: "The difference between you and me is that you are a racist and I am not. [… ] And under no circumstances are you allowed to vote for me. You will not vote for me!"
Reckless produced a leaflet attacking the Conservatives for failing NHS patients, featuring a picture of him (taken when he was a Conservative MP) with Dr Phillip Barnes, Acting Chief Executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust's chair, Shena Winning, complained to UKIP, pointing out that public bodies cannot be associated with any politically biased information that could be seen to give any party an electoral advantage and that he had not asked permission to use the picture. Winning requested the leaflet be withdrawn and a public retraction issued.
At a hustings meeting on 18 November, televised by ITV Meridian, Reckless gave an answer to a question from the floor in which he appeared to suggest that EU migrants could, in future, be subject to deportation. UKIP leader Nigel Farage dismissed the remarks as a "minor confusion"; UKIP added it was not "the party’s policy to round up migrants and put them on a boat at Dover".
The by-election was dubbed 'The Battle for Rochester' following the media storm surrounding the defection of Douglas Carswell to UKIP in August 2014. The previous by-election campaign that was triggered by Carswell's defection became known as 'The Battle for Clacton'.
On polling day, Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry tweeted a picture of a house (in Strood) adorned with England flags with a white van parked outside, which drew accusations of liberal elitism including from her fellow Labour Party MP Simon Danczuk among others. Shortly after close of polls, Thornberry resigned from Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet in response to the controversy the tweet generated. The following day, Miliband described the tweet as conveying a "sense of disrespect".
|Polling organisation/client||Sample size||Con||Lab||LD||UKIP||Green||Others||Lead|
|20 Nov 2014||By-election result||40,113||34.7%||16.7%||0.9%||42.1%||4.2%||2.1%||7.3% over Con|
|7–10 Nov 2014||Ashcroft||543||32%||17%||2%||44%||4%||1%||12% over Con|
|27–28 Oct 2014||Survation||1,012||33%||16%||1%||48%||2%||2%||15% over Con|
|17–21 Oct 2014||ComRes[permanent dead link]||949||30%||21%||3%||43%||2%||1%||13% over Con|
|4 Oct 2014||Survation/Mail on Sunday||677||31%||25%||2%||40%||1%||0.2%||9% over Con|
|6 May 2010||General Election Results||47,971||49.2%||28.5%||16.3%||-||1.5%||4.5%||20.7% over Lab|
|Liberal Democrat||Geoff Juby||7,800||16.3||3.9|
|English Democrat||Ron Sands||2,182||4.5||N/A|
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- By-election polling - General Election polling also reported at same source
- Based on a table that does not adjust for don't know/won't say
- By-election polling
- By-election polling
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