As reported in today’s national press, UKIP continued their march to the European elections later this year by winning a landslide victory in two by-elections in Haverhill, west Suffolk on Thursday.
Nigel Farage’s party managed to get more votes than all the other parties combined. The election was held to fill vacant seats on St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Haverhill Town Council after former town mayor Les Ager died last year.
Tony Brown – who is also a Suffolk County Councillor for Haverhill – won Haverhill East ward on the Borough Council for UKIP with a majority of 54 per cent, more than double that of his Labour opponent Pat Hanlon with 24.5 per cent. And the Haverhill East town council seat was won by UKIP candidate Paul Firman with 64 per cent of the vote, triple that of the Labour candidate Liz Smith.
This victory follows on the back of the Suffolk County Council elections last year when UKIP gained eight seats – they now hold nine seats at Endeavour House – and pushed the Tories into third place in four out of the thirteen divisions in Ipswich.
Is this a sign of things to come when voters go to the polls in the European and local government elections on 22nd May? In Ipswich, UKIP currently have no council seats at Grafton House and this may well still be the case after the count but based on the County Council results last year they are likely to cause more upset for the Conservative Party in seats like Stoke Park and Holywells, where – if they stand – they could end up splitting the Tory vote and allowing Labour to win. But even without UKIP contention, seats like Holywells are looking very precarious. Back in 2012, popular former Borough Council leader Liz Harsant just about scraped home with a majority of 49 over her Labour challenger. Do we really think Cllr George Debman will hold on to Holywells this time round? If UKIP stand in Holywells he will lose by several hundred votes.
In the European poll, I’d put money on UKIP winning the elections.