BNP fails to secure seats in Barking and Stoke Central

Nick Griffin is not elected to parliament, as Labour vote in Barking goes up.

It seems that the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, has failed to win a seat in Barking, east London. Simon Darby, standing for the party in Stoke-on-Trent Central, also appears to have lost out. They are among a host of failures for the far-right party tonight (it fielded a record number of candidates), but these two seats were the setting for high-profile campaigns that the party believed it could win.

The candidates conceded defeat before the final results were in. The leader of the party, who is already a Member of the European Parliament, said at 2am: "I'm being realistic. Margaret Hodge is clearly going to hold the seat." In an interview on BBC Radio Stoke, Darby was negative about his prospects and complained that the leaders' debates had disadvantaged smaller parties.

To put it lightly, this is a relief. The BNP's campaign has been beset by violence -- perhaps not at every turn (before BNP supporters flock to this blog to refute the claims), but it can certainly claim more bust-ups and physical fights than any other political party.

Yet, to a large extent, the BNP's extremist politics have dictated the perameters of the mainstream debate on immigration,. It is vital to reclaim the discussion from this malignant influence.

Update

5.30am: The final results are through for Stoke Central.

The BNP came third (behind the three main parties), with 7.7 per cent of the vote. This is way behind the Conservatives, who came third with 21 per cent. A total 2,502 people voted for Darby -- 0.1 per cent more than voted for the BNP last year. It's a very slight increase, but not one that we need to worry about.

6.01am: Provisional results for Barking have just been announced.

It's a huge majority for Labour's Margaret Hodge, who won with 54.3 per cent of the vote (roughly 6,000 more people voted for her than in 2005). The Conservatives were in second place, and Griffin secured 14.6 per cent of the vote. This suggests that a significant number of people voted for him (6,620), but nowhere near enough for him to be close to a seat. The surge in Labour support may suggest that the people of Barking are, for the most part, saying a resounding "No" to the BNP.

Final results for Barking have yet to be announced.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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