Newick By Election

Following Patrick Mercer’s resignation after allegations by the Parliamentary standards committee of alleged financial misconduct (cash for questions) a by election will be held in the Nottinghamshire seat of Newick to find a replacement MP.

There are lots of angles to this story and it forms a good example for several topics in Unit 1 and Unit 2. At one stage early in his career Mercer was seen as a potential front bench minister. He had enjoyed a glittering military career (the youngest man to be appointed colonel since WWII) and was awarded an MBE in 1990. However, he fell out with David Cameron and was reported to have a major rift with the now Prime Minister, having served in the Shadow Conservative governments he retreated to the back benches amid allegations that he was complicit in racist behaviour while in the military. His decision to resign could be used as an example of misconduct by an MP that will damage the trust the electorate has in their representatives and in due course diminish the turnout.

There is also the issue of by- elections. By elections historically have been good fun for the political observer because the established rule book gets thrown out of the window, safe seats evaportate, the Liberals (historically) usually win and really anything can happen. Newick is a safe Tory seat with a 16,000 majority but when a party has been in office for a prolonged period of time (four years) and is not enjoying huge popularity it is normal that an opposition party will achieve victory in the by- election.

Which brings us to Nigel Farage, with UKIP riding high in the polls and the By election in Newick delayed by the European Elections many people thought that Nigel Farage might use this as an opportunity to enter Parliament. However earlier this morning he decided not to stand. The argument in Mr Farage’s own mind probably encompassed the following pros and cons. Pros- UKIP are doing well in the polls, if they win or come a close second in the European elections it would maintain momentum around the UKIP news story, if UKIP are going to move from a minor also run to a signficant Westminster party they need an MP and for the reasons above a by- election is the best way to get one, Nigel Farage has huge ‘man of the people’ popularity that in the wake of Mercer’s behaviour in could cash in. However, the cons of standing (and clearly these won out) the Conservatives do have a very large majority in Newick, Newick is in the Midlands (not a traditional area of UKIP strength), it has a predominently middle class population (UKIP do well with working class voters) and there is no UKIP infrastructure in Newick as there is in the South East or East Anglia. Ultimately it seems that Farage has decided the risk in Newick is too great (while he does need to stand, and soon- he can’t afford not to win).

Despite Farage’s decision not to run in Newick, UKIP will remain a ‘hot topic’ at least until the European elections in May.

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