Last night saw Mark Reckless (re)elected as the MP for Rochester Strood, to become the second MP to be elected under the UKIP name. His majority of close to three thousand over the Conservatives was comfortable, but not insurmountable for the Tories at a General Election, where polls show voters do tend to approach things slightly differently. Nevertheless, it was a good victory for UKIP and they are quite understandably celebrating the result.
However, I don't believe this result is quite as momentous as the UKIP types on the news and on social media would have us believe. Sure, it's a good result for them – but how earth-shattering really is it?
As in last month's by-election in Clacton, UKIP's candidate was a defector to the party from the Conservatives, and the incumbent MP in that seat. Incumbency brings with it certain benefits, and when we look at other recent by-elections in Heywood & Middleton and in Newark – where UKIP have not been 'helped along' by the defection of a local MP already known to the people in the constituency – UKIP have polled fairly well, but not won the seat. Really winning a seat is a different proposition from holding a seat (even under different party colours), and that is something UKIP are still yet to do.
What is certain, though, is that the General Election next year is looking set to be very interesting indeed! It will be fascinating to see how UKIP fare with their 'homegrown' (for want of a better word) candidates – those dyed-in-the-wool 'Kippers who haven't crossed over from another party, taking with them a certain level of local support and a preexisting record of achievement in parliament which they can use on the campaign trail.the people of #RochesterAndStrood have spoken. They have said: “we told you before that we wanted this guy, why are you asking us again?!”— Kit Marsden (@manek43509) November 21, 2014
Personally, I think it's quite unlikely that we'll see any further defections to UKIP before the General Election. So, when we come to May next year, UKIP candidates will stand or fall on their own merits – and although the party is on the rise, I don't think we will see the huge numbers of UKIP MPs some of their activists are hoping for.
My personal feeling is that they'll be extremely lucky to get into double figures with the number of seats they win. That's a tremor, but is it truly an earthquake? Not really.