After a grim week for Labour, the party’s victory in the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner by-election has provided it with some much-needed cheer. Ukip had hoped to win the contest, which followed the resignation of incumbent Shaun Wright over the Rotherham child abuse scandal, but the Farageists were comfortably defeated.
Labour won on the first round of voting with 50.02 per cent with Ukip trailing on 31.66 per cent. The Tories finished third with 12.52 per cent, just 6.7 per cent ahead of the English Democrats (the Lib Dems did not stand on the grounds that they would scrap PCCs). Labour won in every region, including Rotherham (the others were Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield), and its overall vote rose by 15.64 per cent compared to last May’s European elections. After the Heywood and Middleton by-election, in which the party finished just 617 votes ahead of Ukip, the reaction among most MPs is one of relief.
That Ukip’s cynical attempt to exploit the child abuse scandal failed to deliver the breakthrough it expected is to be welcomed. After its impressive by-election performances, it is also the biggest reversal the party has suffered in recent months. Its failure to finish first in a single area is a significant disappointment for Farage (who was nowhere to be seen today, despite earlier applying for a pass to the count).
In response, a Labour spokesman told The Staggers: “Nigel Farage said he was putting his tanks on our lawn. We took Ukip on and won”, adding that the test for Cameron was “to do the same in Rochester and Strood” (the upcoming by-election on 20 November, which most Tories now regard as a lost cause). The spokesman also highlighted how close the Conservatives finished to the English Democrats (“a disastrous result”) and said that “after this and Heywood, the Tories have no chance of a majority.”
Even with the additional publicity, turnout in the by-election was a derisory 14.88 per cent, another reminder of how PCCs, which Labour has pledged to scrap, have failed to enthuse the public.