Clacton by-election, 2014
The Clacton by-election was held on 9 October 2014 for the United Kingdom House of Commons constituency of Clacton. The by-election was triggered by the Conservative MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, defecting to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and subsequently resigning his seat to seek re-election as its candidate.
Standing for UKIP, Carswell retained the seat with 59.7% of the vote, becoming UKIP's first elected MP. The Conservatives came second, and Labour third. According to John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, the result was the biggest increase in the share of a vote for any party in any by-election in history.
On 28 August 2014 Carswell, a Eurosceptic backbencher, announced his defection to UKIP and said that he was resigning his seat in order to fight a by-election. He said he did not think Prime Minister David Cameron was "serious about the change we need", adding that "many of those at the top of the Conservative Party are simply not on our side" and "Of course they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say to get our support when they want our support, but on so many issues – on modernising our politics, on the recall of MPs, on controlling our borders[,] on less government, on bank reform, on cutting public debt, on an EU referendum – they never actually make it happen". He also said: "...local issues regarding planning and overcrowding of GP surgeries were a factor in my decision to resign".
Responding to the news that Carswell had defected and would trigger a by-election, Cameron said the contest would be held "as soon as possible". He also confirmed that the Conservatives would contest the by-election. It was later announced that the by-election would be held on 9 October, which was also Cameron's 48th birthday. The poll was one of two parliamentary by-elections the same day, with an election also being held in the constituency of Heywood and Middleton following the death of its MP, Jim Dobbin of Labour.
There was speculation that Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London, would seek the candidacy at the by-election. He ruled out standing, saying that he was intent on fighting Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the general election.
While many Conservatives condemned Carswell's defection, some were more supportive of him. Conservative backbencher Nigel Evans suggested that possibly the Conservatives should not stand in Clacton. Former minister Norman Tebbit refused to campaign against Carswell and claimed that the "House of Commons needs men like Douglas Carswell". Backbencher Zac Goldsmith described Carswell as a "model parliamentarian" and remarked that "I hope he is an MP after 2015".
Nick Herbert, the former policing minister, said that the Conservative Party was more concerned with the Clacton by-election rather than winning the Scottish independence referendum that was held during the early part of the Clacton campaign.
During the campaign, a second Conservative MP and close friend of Carswell, Mark Reckless, likewise defected to UKIP and sought re-election in a by-election for his constituency of Rochester and Strood.
Carswell announced that he would stand again for the seat as UKIP's candidate, although he was opposed by the recently selected UKIP candidate, Roger Lord, with some local activists speculating that they might not adopt Carswell. However, UKIP rules for selecting by-election candidates invested the decision with the National Executive Committee, which selected Carswell. Lord left UKIP and resigned his County Council seat, supporting the Liberal Democrats in the council by-election.
The Conservative candidate was actor Giles Watling who was chosen by an open primary on 11 September. He was shortlisted with Colchester councillor Sue Lissimore. Though he lost this by-election, he went on to win the seat at the 2017 general election after Carswell stood down.
Charlotte Rose and Bruce Sizer were independent candidates. Rose described herself as a "high class courtesan" campaigning "for sexual freedom". Sizer was a consultant oncologist at Colchester Hospital who stood as a single-issue candidate to get health and cancer care onto the agenda of the political parties. He was Joint Clinical Director of the Essex Cancer Network from 2006 until 2008 and is Oncology Editor for the Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary.
The Conservatives were mocked by UKIP supporters for sending out a leaflet, called "The Big Clacton Survey" asking voters to prioritise issues including “local train and tube service”. UKIP claimed to have recruited 150 local Conservative members after Carswell's defection.
The journalist and former Conservative MP, Matthew Parris, created a controversy by writing in The Times that the Conservatives should be “careless” of Clacton voters’ opinions as “Clacton-on-Sea is going nowhere”, remarks which were disowned by local Conservatives and denounced by Carswell as "reflective of what so many in the upper echelons of the Tory party really think" and were cited by two local Conservative councillors as a reason for defecting to UKIP.
An important component of the UKIP campaign was a public meeting of 700 people at the Clacton Coastal Academy with Douglas Carswell and UKIP leader Nigel Farage which was billed as the "biggest public meeting in Clacton in living memory".
Ten days before the election Banksy painted a mural on a wall in Clacton which showed five grey pigeons holding three placards. They held the words “go back to Africa” “migrants not welcome”, and “keep off our worms”. They were directed towards a more colourful migratory swallow perched further along the same wire. The mural was removed by Tendring District Council who had received a complaint that “offensive and racist remarks” had appeared on a wall.
|Polling organisation/client||Sample size||Con||Lab||UKIP||LD||Green||Others||Lead|
|9 Oct 2014||Clacton by-election Result||35,365||24.6%||11.2%||59.7%||1.4%||1.9%||1.2%||35.1% over Con|
|29 Aug–1 Sep||Lord Ashcroft (for the next General Election)||1,001||27%||19%||48%||3%||3%||<0.5%||21% over Con|
|29 Aug–1 Sep||Lord Ashcroft (for the 2014 by-election)||1,001||24%||16%||56%||2%||1%||1%||32% over Con|
|28–29 Aug||Survation (for the 2014 by-election)||700||20%||13%||64%||2%||1%||<0.5%||44% over Con|
|6 May 2010||General Election Results||43,123||53.0%||25.0%||-||12.9%||1.2%||7.8%||28.0% over Lab|
|Liberal Democrat||Andrew Graham||483||1.4||11.5|
|Monster Raving Loony||Alan "Howling Laud" Hope||127||0.4||N/A|
|UKIP gain from Conservative||Swing||44.1|
The election produced a number of statistical records, partly because of the unusual situation in which an incumbent MP with a large majority for one party has resigned and then stood for re-election on behalf of a new party for which support was in any case on a strongly rising trend. The 59.7% increase in the percentage vote achieved by UKIP since the previous general election (when they did not field a candidate) is the greatest ever in British parliamentary elections, although the percentage swing remains 0.1% less than the record 44.2% swing to the Liberal Party at the 1983 Bermondsey by-election. The 28.4% reduction in Conservative votes is the 16th worst for any party since the Second World War, while the 1.4% of the vote achieved by the Liberal Democrats was, at the time, the third smallest vote ever obtained by a major party, and the worst since World War II. Since then, however, the Liberal Democrats received an even smaller proportion of the vote at the Rochester and Strood by-election later in 2014.
Previous resultUKIP did not stand a candidate against Douglas Carswell in 2010, citing his Eurosceptic views.
|Liberal Democrat||Michael Green||5,577||12.9||0.6|
|Tendring First||Terry Allen||1,078||2.5||N/A|
- United Kingdom general election, 2015
- European Parliament election, 2014 (United Kingdom)
- List of United Kingdom by-elections
- Opinion polling for the United Kingdom general election, 2015
- Opinion polling for the 2015 United Kingdom general election in individual constituencies
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