Coffee House

A day in Newark: the Tories are winning the ground war against Ukip

29 May 2014

6:22 PM

29 May 2014

6:22 PM

With one week to go till polling day, the Tories are throwing the kitchen sink at the Newark by-election. When Patrick Mercer resigned last month, it was assumed the Conservatives would easily hold the seat. But since then, Ukip gave a strong performance locally in the Euro elections, adding an unknown element — a higher turnout in Ukip’s favour? A rise in the anti-politics sentiment?

I visited Newark today to find out how the battle is going. My overall impression is that the Ukip’s operation is being completely dwarfed by the Conservatives. Over 1,000 Tory activists were here last Saturday, with the same expected again this weekend. MPs and ministers are being continuously bussed in. Today alone, five minister have been campaigning in Newark — George Osborne, Sajid Javid, Theresa May, Liz Truss and Matthew Hancock.

On the streets of Newark-on-Trent, it was hard to avoid Tory activists; walking purposefully towards their designated locations. The Ukippers, on the other hand, were wandering aimlessly around the town centre handing out leaflets. Despite the suggestion of using data to build a more sophisticated operation, Ukip have yet to build a professional campaign. Labour and the Lib Dems were unsurprisingly nowhere to be seen.


As with most by-elections, there is a danger that voters will be turned off by all the attention. One Tory activist who’d been out last weekend — the day the postal voting cards arrived — joked to me about how bombarded the constituents are about to be. Day one of the campaign and offering a man washing his car a leaflet, he jokingly accepted replying ‘just add it to the pile over on the wall’. By aggressively knocking on doors, there is a danger of actually increasing the Ukip vote; by stoking up the anti-politics feeling. Even staff from No.10 are being sent here to phone canvass after work. If Newark voters were sick of politicians before, they will hate them by next Thursday.

The two main candidates standing couldn’t be more different. Robert Jenrick is a 32-year-old bright, if a little bland, Tory while Roger Helmer is a 70-year-old ex-Tory MEP, known for his strong views on homosexuality, climate change, rape and the church. Despite having a wealth of material to attack Helmer, the Tories appear to be playing this by-election nicely, with zero negative campaigning.

In hindsight, Nigel Farage may regret his decision not to stand in Newark. His face appears on the local Ukip leaflets and Helmer has even admitted ‘Nigel has that enormous box office presence’. If Newark is a repeat of last year’s Eastleigh by-election — and Ukip just miss out on the seat — Farage will be kicking himself. If his party pull it out of the bag and win, it would be a game changer. Given the strong Conservative operation here, it seems they are also aware of the high stakes. But judging on what I’ve seen today, it’s likely Jenrick will roll home, albeit with a slimmer majority than his predecessor.

Watch the latest instalment of  Spectator TV, featuring interviews with both Jenrick and Helmer.

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Show comments
  • Neil

    Well I was in Newark yesterday and reading this has made me laugh…I saw 2 young lads handing out blue baloons and that was was flooded with ukip activists. Sorry but this article is rubbish!

  • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

    The people of Newark aren’t idiots, they can see though liblabcon.

  • Revolutionkid

    I wasn’t going to but I’m gonna make the 2 hour trip to help the UKIP massive get the message across , this must be the first shift these lazy Conservatives have had to do ….to be fair whilst canvassing over the last few months whenever I have come into contact with torys they have been decent people …as for Labour well they are a different breed .

  • foxoles

    Latest poling shows that tory majority will be cut from 16,000 to 2,000.

    Come on, UKIP … just a bit more … one last heave …

  • pretty_polly

    Let’s hope UKIP win in Newark which really would be a damaging hit on the arrogant, complacent and incompetent Tory Party which gave Britain to Brussels based on lies and misrepresentation.

    Not to mention forcing mass immigration on the Brits and colluding with Labour to silence the legitimate concerns of the public.

    With someone like the EU loving and establishment loving Dave in charge, the Tories so deserve to lose, and to lose badly… to UKIP.

  • Bill_der_Berg

    If Nick Clegg does turn up at Newark and is prepared to answer questions, someone might like to ask him to clarify something he said in a Guardian article on December 8 2003. It appears to conflict with remarks he made in his debate with Nigel Farage.

    “MEPs are parliamentary giants. Don’t snigger. There are many legitimate criticisms to be made of the European parliament, but irrelevance or lack of importance, the stock accusations, are laughably wide of the mark.

    Probably half of all new legislation now enacted in the UK begins in Brussels. The European parliament has extensive powers to amend or strike down laws in almost every conceivable area of public life.”

  • Denis_Cooper

    If the Survation poll is anywhere near correct then the Tories have lost the battle even if they retain the seat.

    Tory share of the vote down by a third from 2010, 54% reduced to 36%.

    UKIP share of the vote up by a factor of seven, 4% increased to 28%

    LIbDem share of the vote cut by three quarters, 20% down to 5%, Labour share up by just under a quarter, 22% to 27%; if all the support lost by the LibDems was simply added to the previous Labour support then Labour would now be on 37%, but clearly Labour has also lost support to UKIP.

    There’s a pie chart giving a breakdown of UKIP’s support, but as always the question asked was how UKIP supporters had voted back in 2010, not which party they were supporting before they decided to switch their support to UKIP, so some large chunk of the 12% who say they voted LibDem in 2010 should be added to the 16% who say they voted Labour; at the extreme it would 28% from Labour, 51% from the Tories and 18% from those who did not vote at all in 2010.

    Obviously it will make little practical diffference in Parliament whether the Newark MP is Tory or UKIP for the next year; it’s all a matter of psychology, whether the old parties can stem the rise of UKIP and convince voters that its success on May 22nd was just a flash in the pan, and on the basis of the Survation poll the Tories haven’t been able to do that even though they’ve made such huge efforts to do so.

    In fact just the publication of this opinion poll could change the final outcome, one way or the other but probably in favour of UKIP.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      That poll said UKIP is holding 72% of its May 22 MEP vote. That’s an absolutely deadly figure for the Cameroons, and it alone seals their fate next May.

      • Denis_Cooper

        If that was sustained then large numbers of apparently quite secure Tory seats, any with 2010 majorities below say 4000, would suddenly become highly marginal. But the same would also apply to a somewhat smaller number of apparently quite secure Labour seats. Then only the really safe seats could be considered safe, outside those constituencies there would be a large degree of uncertainty where none existed previously. Which would be good.

  • pjl20

    The Tories are using up their reserves and Ministers time in the attempt to guarantee victory.

    With a 16,000 majority to defend they must be seriously worried about the excellent prospects of Roger Helmer MEP, UKIPs candidate in Newark.

    What UKIP have is a very well organised and professional campaign team in the town, that has plenty of experience of local elections, as evidenced by the photo above.

    Numbers alone are insufficient.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, and if the Cameroons drop this, it will be as a thunderclap.

  • Cyril Sneer

    The Tory party is trying to annexe Newark, the international community must react with force. Where are you NATO?

    • solly gratia

      Does that mean we can ignore the vote if it’s reported as highly in favour of the Tories?

      • Cyril Sneer

        Yes, you can ignore it and then send in the army and kill your own citizens, whilst 2 months previous you complained about that exact same thing happening to you perpetrated by the previous government but it’s different this time around even though it’s the essentially the same thing.

  • john king

    Well Seb.
    You sir have a very odd definition of “winning”.
    Latest poll…….Cons-Down 18 points, Ukip up 24.
    Ukip are closing on the Socialist Tories.

  • ChrisWintle

    I tend to look at the situation which is that local people are on the ball with issues so Roger Helmer knows the area even though he was an ex tory, Issues in my book wins bums as i most probably know Nigel Farage will win say in Kent/Essex as he knows the area

  • Chris Quin

    If Labour voters have any sense at all, they will vote UKIP in Newark and send the Tories packing

  • Cyril Sneer

    And this is a Tory safe seat? A 1,000 Tory activists… doesn’t sound very safe to me.

  • Colin56

    Can someone tell me – when ministers such as George Osborne and Theresa May campaign in Newark instead of doing their day jobs, do they still get paid their ministerial salaries for that day? Or does it get docked as they are not carrying out their ministerial duties? If not, why are taxpayers subsidising political campaigning? One for the Taxpayers Alliance, perhaps …

  • UKIP

    Send David Cameron along to Newark and that will lift the UKIP support. Cameron will not give us a vote on the EU, he is using delaying tactics. At the moment leaving the EU, is like having to defeat the Germans in the 2nd world war, it dwarfs all other concerns.

    • ArchiePonsonby

      Never a truer word!

  • Kitty MLB

    The Parties I really don’t want to win are Labour and the Lib Dems. And although
    I sympathize with UKIP’s wishes and think that maybe some experience as a
    MP might be good for them.
    But we need to remember the constituencies, this is not about council seats and whatever else, this is about everyday life. So obviously the Conservatives shall win.

  • Lady Magdalene

    “Throwing the kitchen sink” at a Constituency where you have a 16,000 majority is a sign of desperation and fear. The Tories won’t be able to do that in every Constituency in 2015.
    So well done UKIP.
    The chances of coming from nowhere to overtake 16,000 aren’t high: but we’re certainly rattling the cages of the Conservative Elite.

  • evad666

    Go on Newark cheer up the country Vote for a UKIP MP. Make the Lib,Lab,Con and Brussels squirm.

    • AnotherDave

      Survation’s Newark poll puts UKIP just 8 points short of the Conservatives. It’s do-able!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        I doubt the Camerloons would have facilitated that resignation just now, if it was truly doable. A mere 8-point margin is impressive, given that.

        But if UKIP does manage to take that seat…

        • Brimstone52

          The Tories had nothing to do with Mercer’s resignation from the Commons. He was an independent at the time having previously resigned the Tory whip.

  • Max L

    Why do the media think ukip will have failed if they don’t get a record swing? I can already imagine the headlines. Fair scrutiny indeed.

    • Cyril Sneer

      It’s all so infantile isn’t it? UKIP have made huge gains and yet you can be sure if UKIP come 2nd then the media will be touting the decline of UKIP.

      And they will be wrong about that as they are at just about everything nowadays.

  • itdoesntaddup

    Survation Newark poll:
    Con 36
    UKIP 28
    Lab 27
    LD 5
    Rest 4

  • Chingford Man

    Someone on ConHome noted that the Tories have gone into the equivalent of DEFCON 1 – the US Forces’ signal for imminent nuclear war – all over a party that lost its deposit in Newark just 4 years ago. They must be scared.

  • Aberrant_Apostrophe

    Tories having to bus in activists and MPs? My God, they must be sh*tting themselves. So much for their unwise claims that 50% of UKIP voters will come back to the fold.

    • foxoles

      I do hope they realise they can’t do that for every seat in a General Election … ;-))

  • Paul Hughes

    I’m watching question time as I write this and it convinces me that UKIP have taken a wrong turn. I voted UKIP in the EU elections because I believe in our nation’s right and power to decide upon its own destiny. I am hearing quite an articulate spokeswoman attempting to defend UKIP domestic policy. UKIP shouldn’t have a domestic policy. As far as I’m concerned the Brits can vote in a communist, Labour, fascist or liberal government. The important thing, for me, is that Britain decides for itself. I think UKIP could win any election on the “Britain Decides” mantra. As it is, we hear of countless ideas for national recovery being stymied by “EU law doesn’t allow it” talk. UKIP should focus on these frustrations rather than espousing any one view of what Britain should be. Free Britain and allow Britons to decide. UKIP could win on this platform without being painted into a right or left wing corner.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      “UKIP shouldn’t have a domestic policy.”

      But that’s precisely the reason why many people won’t vote for them, because they believe – rightly or wrongly – that UKIP are a ‘single isssue’ party. Yes, I know getting out of the EU is the most pressing and highest priority issue, and will solve many of the UK’s problems, but UKIP has to provide sensible solutions to guide post-EU Britain out of the unholy mess it has been cast into by successive Governments.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    “Even staff from No.10 are being sent here to phone canvass after work.”

    Sent by whom? At whom’s expense? Is this entiely kosher?

  • barrydavies

    Well as Newark should be at the top of the tories list of constituencies they will win at the next election it seems that they are very worried about the message that would be sent if they don’t easily retain the seat, not by a a couple of hundred but a huge win.

  • Bill_der_Berg

    Give it a few days and there will be as many media people as Tory canvassers swarming over the place.

  • starfish

    So what they are doing is securing their vote. Who will the other 60% vote for

  • Smithersjones2013

    What are the Tories going to do at the general election when they are going to have 50 to 100 of these as well as all their marginal seats? They won’t be throwing such resources about.

    Otherwise I believe this as much as I believe a Cameron commitment on Europe or Immigration (as if Little Sebby would ever write an article that put UKIP above the Tories) but I do feel sorry for the poor people of Newark having to suffer the “Invasion of the Tory vote snatchers”…

  • Richard N

    The ITN poll today found 27% of people saying they intend to vote UKIP at the next General Election.

    27% is the poll rating achieved by the Tory crony capitalist, EU puppet regime in a Survation poll a few days ago.

    No wonder the Tory and Labour EU puppet scum traitor parties are in a panic.

    I really hope UKIP takes Newark.

  • Tom

    I’m a UKIP supporter but even if i wasn’t it sounds like the Tories are doing overkill, a thousand activists and half the cabinet!!.
    Jesus even if I was a tory i would be sick of the sight of them!.

  • kyalami

    Don’t they have any work to do?

    Do these MP take unpaid leave to do party political campaigning? Or do they expect the taxpayer to subsidise them?

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds
  • the viceroy’s gin

    The Camerloons are sending down ministers. That’s the plan. And they think it’s a wonderful plan. Right now. Today. They’ve developed this master political plan, for this seat, and the plan is to send down government ministers, direct from the Londonistan bubble, to vouchsafe to the electorate the continuation of this glorious Cameroon government.

    They are doing this on purpose. They’ve actively chosen this course. They are using themselves as the issue. Call Me Dave and friends. That’s the ground upon which they want matters decided.

    That’s UKIP’s plan as well, fyi.

    • you_kid

      Oh look everyone, the concern troll is in the house. What is he concerned about today? High house prices? No. Further quantatative tampering of the diverse kind? Oh no no. The fear of a sudden penalty shoot-out should Clegg leaves tomorrow? No no no.

      The concern troll is concerned about the sending of apparatchiks to the countryside. One day he excretes that bubble centralists ought to get out more, now that they clearly are getting out more he is ‘concerned’. That’s a proper concern troll for you. Wow, and how his concern muppets all agree with him on that, quite amazing.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …can any other of you socialist nutters translate this nutter’s gibberish?

        Maybe one of your sockpuppets can translate it, lad.

        • you_kid

          Ah yes, how could I forget, the concern troll is concerned once more. Did anyone miss that?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …nope, still gibberish, lad.

            Maybe you and all the sockpuppets can pitch-in together for that translator?

            • you_kid

              why don’t you pass the Port from left to right, laddy?

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …nope, still not making any progress, lad.

                Suggest again you go with the Cyrillic. It might be more intelligible, or at least couldn’t be any worse .

                • Adro

                  You know, lad, calling everyone who disagrees with you a socialist betrays your inability to actually form a cogent argument, beyond bluster.

                  But still, do carry on, it provides great entertainment.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …you don’t seem entertained, lad. You seem whiny .

                • Adro

                  I assure you lad, I am not whiny. I merely believe that it is about time someone on this thread challenged your combination of half-baked argument and smug dismissal of criticism directly. If anything, it is an enjoyable exercise.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  No, you don’t seem to be enjoying yourself. You seem quite upset, in fact, that you’re victim of “smug dismissal” and so forth, and you’re whiny as heck and you’re not going to take it anymore.

                  Relax, lad, all that tension is bad for you.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            Love the way you use the word ‘concern’ as an insult.
            #Getyourhashtagsoutforthelads as we plebs say

  • Bill_der_Berg

    The Conservative candidate appears to be campaigning solely on local issues. Potholes etc.

    • Lucy Sky Diamonds

      Shame the candidate isnt local…

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        Ah, but Bill didn’t say the potholes were local to Newark…

        Anyway, potholes are the local authorities problem.

  • LadyDingDong

    As much as I feel betrayed by the social democrat Cameron, I hate Labtard with such a passion that I would do nothing to let them in by the back door. I sympathise with Ukip’s agenda but am left dismayed by some of their candidates. This Helmer chappie comes across as a grade A nutter and watching the egregious Hamilton on QT last week did not endear me further to the Ukip camp. The fact the two aforementioned placemen are former Conservatives makes me question some of my party’s past decisions but when I look at the likes of Straw, Vaz, Skinner, Hoon, Balls, Burnham and Milllliband I realise that those attracted to a life in parliament are usually of the odder than most variety. When our Nige can attract the likes of Gove, May, IDS and Pickles I may change my mind but I am b*ggered if I will throw my vote away on antediluvian has beens like Helmer and Hamilton.

    • Kennybhoy

      “As much as I feel betrayed by the social democrat Cameron, I hate Labtard with such a passion that I would do nothing to let them in by the back door. ”

      The voice of reason…

    • Lucy Sky Diamonds
    • sarah_13

      I agree with much of what you say. I personally admire and am grateful to Mr Farage for his excellent work of putting the cat amongst the pigeons but there are simply not enough candidates of Mr Farage’s quality. Patrick O’Flynn is excellent as is Suzanne Evans but not many more. I also agree, watching Hamilton just put me off and Helmer is, as you say, on the odder end of the continuum. I would,however, be severely tested as a tory if Nigel were a parliamentary candidate in my constituency.

      • Streben80

        I am a UKIP activist and even I try to avoid watching Hamilton on TV although I am told he is very nice in person, fact is you cant like everyone in a party, thats just life. Ill throw some names your way though: Paul Nuttall, Michael Heaver, Margot Parker, Diane James, Steve Woolfe and Tim Aker. Look them up on Youtube if you dont know of them, there are plenty of decent people in the party.

        • Makroon

          Diane James is not a “nice person”, she’s a congenital liar.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Should be at home in the House of Commons then.

          • Wessex Man

            I didn’t know that, please enlighten me to her lies.

    • Streben80

      Watch Louise Blours on QT tonight, see what you make of her.

      • Adro

        If anything, her attitude of ‘the louder I am, the more correct I am’ was a bit pathetic. The lack of knowledge on some basic areas of policy was also pretty worrying.

        • Wessex Man

          Trying to speak whilst being heckled on one side by the first of the hackers and proven liar Piers Morgan and the intellectual giant Joey Barton, who thinks he can speak French if he speaks Scouse English in an high voice, Loise Blours did a fantastic job.

          Given Mon Barton’s logic which is being pushed by the Beeb’s ‘political journalists’ that the majority of the poplulation never voted so that UKip who came top are only a fringe party still means that the Lib/dums are fit only to rule whelk store!

        • Streben80

          You cant know what a policy position is until it has been formally agreed through the proper process.
          Your lack of knowledge about the process of writing a manifesto is equally worrying.

          • Adro

            The difference is I’m not on a national TV programme attempting to represent a party. I know how full well how manifestos are drafted and if UKIP doesn’t have one, that is fine (anything would be better than the drivel they put together for the 2010 election). However, as much as you may not like it, going on to speak on a show being filmed at Heathrow without having a modicum of an idea of what the general policy on airport capacity of your party is reeks of a lack of knowledge, poor research, and a non-existent briefing system for spokespeople. In other words, a fairly amateur operation. If anything, it just does UKIP a disservice by making them look stupid.

            P.S. Waffling on about airport capacity and demand in relation to Frankfurt, before going ‘Well I’m from the North West and we also have an airport’ is not a policy.

            • Streben80

              There isnt an agreed policy on Heathrow yet and until that report gives its conclusions I doubt anyone will have a policy on it, that is actually a mature way to conduct policy rather than make something up because you are on telly.
              Blours point about there being a world outside London may not have much traction at Heathrow but she was speaking not to the studio audience but to those voters that feel excluded by the London elite beyond the M25 – anyone who understands the attitudes of the sort of people that might vote UKIP would be well aware why she went in that direction, I know I do, I would have done the same, even if it doesnt make you popular with a London audience. Bigger picture politics, know your wider audience and stick to the narrative. You may not like it but she was on message.

    • Smithersjones2013

      A vote for the Tories is a vote for Brussels

    • ArchiePonsonby

      I can’t understand the antipathy to Roger Helmer! He is a successful businessman, extremely articulate, unflappable, fully in command of the UKIP agenda, and good in debate (His skewering of the odious Owen Jones was a joy to hear). I consider him to be an asset, despite the fact that he’s not pretty, which I think is more a judgement on the voting public than UKIP!

      • Kitty MLB

        Roger Helmer is a controversial character that would liven up the HOC. and the UK needs to see how UKIP handle real responsibility.
        But the constituencies may not like be treated as a experiment.
        This is quite different from the council seat elections, this is to
        do with actual individual people. But as long as ghastly Labour or the
        Lib Dems do not win. Conservatives will win. Mind you the chap does look exceptionally young.

  • dado_trunking

    Sebastian, how did you feel? Excluded, alienated, foreign even, amongst all these really old people?

    • UniteAgainstSocialism

      he was safe, no lib dem politicians around

  • HD2

    Quality, not quantity, is what matters.
    Anyone ever heard of the Con candidate before? No, me neither – and their CCHQ ‘backroom staff’ will be the same as before, when they selected the utterly disgraced Mercer.

    • itdoesntaddup

      Mercer first ran in 2001 – long before the Cameroons.

  • swatnan

    If Nige had stood he would have walked it. But with a mysogenist homophobic climate change denier UKIP have no chance. The people of Newark must have some principles and a red line which they will not cross under any circumstances.

  • The Commentator

    When you have to throw the kitchen sink at a safe seat you are in big trouble!

    • peterbuss

      Not really – just means that you are taking nothing for granted which would be very wise recalling huge by election upsets in the past.

    • telemachus

      The value of last Thursday is that it woke up proper politicians from their torpor

      • Alexsandr

        but it hasnt . they are still saying the same old tripe. Anyway it was the voters fault for having the wrong opinions. You could not make it up.

        • telemachus

          Analyse Cameron since the poll
          He has a spring
          It has given him confidence in the renegotiation
          Now bolstered by the effect of Le Pen on Hollande

      • evad666

        We have proper politicians? I hadn’t noticed.

        • telemachus

          Balls, Cooper, Burnham, Umunna
          This quartet gives us hope for the future

          • Jono

            I make it 10 past 6 in the AM you were up writing this nonsense…

            Still not found a life then.

          • Brimstone52

            They certainly confirm many people’s thoughts.

    • UniteAgainstSocialism

      Both of the Major Parties are threatened by the patriotism and loyalty of UKIP in representing what the vast majority of British people want. Out of Europe and the end to uncontrolled immigration.

    • WatTylersGhost

      “Over 1,000 Tory activists were here last Saturday”, that should really repulse the good people of Newark.