The Journal Opinion: Could a Ukip surge happen here - and is Labour prepared?

The Journal's opinion column for Saturday, October 11, in which we analyse Ukip's election success and ask what it could mean for the North East

Nigel Farage on Stage at the Sage, Gateshead.

There is no question that both the Conservatives and Labour suffered bloody noses at the hands of Ukip in Thursday’s parliamentary by-elections.

However, there are differences between the results in Clacton and Heywood & Middleton.

The Tories’ loss in Clacton had been expected – though the scale of it must have been deeply worrying for David Cameron.

But Labour’s near-defeat to Ukip in Heywood & Middleton came as much more of a shock.

It has ramifications in Labour seats all over the country, including the North East, where 25 out of 29 seats are Labour-held.

As we demonstrate today, a swing to Ukip similar to that demonstrated in Heywood & Middleton would sweep up a whole stack of Labour-held North East seats.

Of course, we don’t for a moment say this will happen, nor that it is likely to happen. By-elections are very different animals to general elections and at this stage Ukip would be thrilled to make any kind of breakthrough in the North East.

But there is no getting away from it – the kind of voters that Ukip is hoovering up are present in great numbers in the North East.

Labour may want to talk to those voters about the NHS, the Tories may want to talk about the deficit. But if the voters want to talk about immigration, if they want to talk about claims of sexual grooming of girls by men of Pakistani heritage, what are the main parties going to do? Change the subject? Ignore them? Call them racists?

Voters are capable of ganging up to punish one of the main parties. Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters, along with disaffected Labour voters, could band together in North East constituencies. If they do, that could spell big trouble for Labour. They have been warned.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer