Douglas Carswell retained 92% of the vote he won as a Conservative in 2010. Photo: Getty.
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Ukip wins Clacton and nearly wins Heywood & Middleton

Douglas Carswell becomes Ukip's first elected MP, while the party almost wins a second seat.

Explore our new elections site, May2015.com.

 

There was only one winner tonight: Ukip.

Douglas Carswell became the party’s first ever MP. He won 60 per cent of his seat, easily the most resounding win in a by-election since 2010.

In doing so he kept hold of 92 per cent of the votes he won as a Conservative in 2010, dealing a resounding, if expected, blow to the government.

But the far more unexpected story was how close Ukip came to winning a second MP. They fell short of doing so by just 617 votes in Heywood & Middleton, a northern seat tucked to the west of Rochdale and north of Manchester.

Earlier in the week we had predicted polls showing a 20 point Labour lead were too optimistic, and forecast a 6 point victory. In the end the party prevailed by 2.3 per cent, winning 40.9 per cent to Ukip 38.7 per cent.

Labour figures tried to point to how their vote increased, but they added less than 1 per cent to the total their previous MP, Jim Dobbin, won in 2010. Ukip won 36 points more than they did four years ago.

As in South Shields, the party won large parts of the electorate when they had no foothold in the area to build on. Their prospects in seats that are more favourable to them – as in Ed Miliband’s seat of Doncaster North, where right-wing parties won 17 per cent of the vote in 2010 – are daunting for Labour.

A recent Fabian report suggested the party are at risk of losing 18 seats they won in 2010 because of Ukip, either directly or through the help they hand the Tories in Labour-Tory marginals. Ukip are also threatening their chances of winning four Tory seats, the report argues.

More attention is likely to be paid to the data in the wake of last night’s results. We will be gathering and analysing it, along with Ashcroft’s marginal polls and all the latest polls, on our new elections site – May2015.com.

May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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