In the end, the threat from smaller parties came to nothing, and Labour easily retained all of the three safe seats it was defending yesterday. In fact, they extended their vote share in all three as well. Respect could only manage a distant fourth in Rotherham and sixth in Croydon North, where former Ken Livingstone adviser Lee Jasper lost his deposit. Instead it was Ukip who came second in Rotherham and Middlesbrough, and third in Croydon North.

Both coalition parties saw their vote collapse in all three seats. The Conservatives ended up fourth in Middlesbrough and fifth in Rotherham (their worst results of this parliament), though they did manage to hold onto second in Croydon North. The Liberal Democrats fell to third in Middlesbrough, fourth in Corydon North and eighth in Rotherham.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the results is the share of the vote claimed by ‘others’: the parties other than Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. At the last General Election, they amassed just 8 per cent between them in England. Yesterday, they totalled 15 per cent in Croydon, 23 per cent in Middlesbrough and 46 per cent in Rotherham.

These results may well spark another round of speculation about a Tory-Ukip pact — despite it having been rejected by the Conservative leadership. If that speculation does return — with Fabricant’s claim that Ukip cost the Tories ’20–40 seats’ at the last election — it’s worth remembering the words of politics professor Justin Fisher, who called it ‘the politics of not understanding data’:

‘This idea presupposes that all the people who voted for those parties would otherwise have voted Tory. And it ignores the damage such a coalition can do to a party’s support among other voters.’

And polling expert Anthony Wells dismissed the claim as ‘lazy nonsense based on unsustainable assumptions’.

Tags: By-election, Conservatives, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Respect, UKIP