Welcome to our live blog for the results of the Newark by-election. We’ll be providing commentary and analysis throughout the night. This page will automatically reload every minute.
4:00am: James Forsyth concludes our live blog with his take on the by-election results:
The Tories have held Newark with a comfortable majority of 7,000 plus. The party will be relieved to have won and delighted with the size of their majority over Ukip which was far larger than the 2,500 that Nigel Farage had been predicting earlier in the night.
There will be relief in Downing Street and CCHQ that they have sidestepped this banana skin. Considering that the by-election was a result of the disgrace of the previous Tory MP Patrick Mercer and took place only 11 days after Ukip had topped the poll in the European Elections, it had the potential to be a disaster for the Tories that could have sent the party into a Ukip-induced panic. But victory, and especially by this margin, will ensure that the Tory party goes into the summer in relatively calm and united fashion.
For Labour, there must be disappointment at a third place finish. If Labour was on course for a comfortable general election win, it would have come within striking distance of taking this seat. Instead, its share of the vote in Newark has actually declined—down from 22% at the general election to 18%.
But I suspect that this bad result for Labour will be obscured by another dismal Lib Dem performance. The Lib Dems came sixth behind both the Greens and a local hospital party and lost their deposit, the ninth time that this has happened since 2010. The BBC says that this was the worst ever Lib Dem by-election performance in mainland Britain. Now, the Liberal Democrat leadership will say that, ultimately, what matters is their vote in the seats that they hold. But Newark is another reminder of how outside of their redoubts, their vote has collapsed almost entirely.
If Ukip had won this by-election, the party would have gone into the summer with the big mo. It’d have topped the poll in a nationwide vote and gained its first MP. But in the end, Ukip didn’t even match its performance in the Eastleigh by-election. With the Tories holding on in Newark, there is now a circuit break on the Ukip surge.
3.35am TORIES HOLD NEWARK WITH MAJORITY OF 7,000+ Ukip 2nd, Labour 3rd and Lib Dems 6th
3.30am James Forsyth: The BBC is reporting that the Tories have held Newark with a comfortable majority of 7.000 votes. That margin is far larger than what Nigel Farage was predicting earlier in the evening when he said the Tory majority would be cut to 2,500.
2.40am James Forsyth Chris Bryant has just done a rather testy interview on the BBC. In it, he conceded that Labour had come third. But, again, made the very odd argument that Tory ministers had been out campaigning as if this was a bad thing when, it is surely, one of the things that elections are about.
2.10am Harry Cole: In the clearest sign yet that the Tories are extremely happy with their result tonight, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has begun to openly bait Nigel Farage live on the air:
‘Yes he already conceded, which is very good of him as he’s not the candidate, he ran away…’
Expect to hear this line from the blue team a lot in the coming hours and days.
1.55am James Forsyth: I’m hearing some suggestion that the Tory majority could be larger than the 2.5k that Nigel Farage is predicting on his media round
1.40am James Forsyth The Liberal Democrats are on course to come 6th, yes sixth, in Newark according to the BBC. Andrew Neil just revealed that James Landale had told him that the Lib Dems would come behind both the Greens and a party campaigning on local hospital issues.
1.35 am James Forsyth: Nigel Farage has just told Andrew Neil that Ukip has not won in Newark. He conceded that the Tories have held the seat. But claimed that Ukip would have the Tory majority down to two and a half thousand and score 30 percent plus of the vote, their best ever by-election performance
1.25am Harry Cole BBC election guru John Curtice has some bad news for Ed Miliband:
‘The truth is that they [Labour] should be on tenterhooks as to whether they will win the seat. That swing that they would need, it is less than the Labour Party achieved in Norwich, less than the Conservatives achieved in Norwich in the last Parliament, less than Labour achieved in Dudley West, Wirrel South just before they won the 1997 election. When oppositions look as though they are on course for government, the kind of swing that is required for Labour to win has been relatively common. To that extent, we have to ask ourselves, why is it we are not asking the question, could Labour win this? It is all of a piece, as a result of the recent elections, Labour do not have the enthusiasm and depth of support in the electorate that make them look like an alternative government.’
1:10am James Forsyth Nigel Farage has just arrived at the Newark count and conceded that Ukip haven’t beaten the Tories. But he claims they will have the Tory majority down to two and a half thousand.
1.05am: Harry Cole has spotted the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on BBC One:
Well it wouldn’t be late night election coverage without Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg popping up to call for a Ukip and Tory pact as the results start to trickle through.
The Somerset MP was forced to concede to the BBC’s late night show that his plan ‘doesn’t seem to be flying at the moment.’ A retreat that will please Lynton Crosby and Grant Shapps.
Rees Mogg is fast becoming a figurehead for the blunt right, even if a faintly ridiculous character at times. His concession is a notable indication to the mood of the Tory backbenches.
0055: If you’re wondering about the candidates in Newark, here’s our recent Spectator TV instalment featuring the Conservative Robert Jenrick and Ukipper Roger Helmer:
0050: The official turnout figure is 52.79 per cent. The counting now begins.
0030: Conservative minister Matthew Hancock has told the BBC ‘the polls are fairly solid, we’ve worked extremely hard and we have a superb candidate’ – but declines to predict a winner.
0025: Rumours are circulating that the Lib Dem vote has completely collapsed in Newark, possibly as low as two per cent. In 2010, they managed to take 20 per cent of the vote:
0020: James Forsyth hears that Labour have accepted they’ve come third in Newark:
‘Labour seem resigned to coming third in Newark. A Labour source says: “Looking like clear Tory win with Ukip 2nd and us third — ahead of Libs who are collapsing. 44th safest Tory seat — they threw everything at it. Inevitable our vote would be squeezed given circumstances — Ukip came first in Euro elections less than two weeks ago.”‘
0010: Harry Cole reports on the spin from Ukip this morning:
‘Ukip’s latest spin is that a close result will prove that there is no such thing as a safe seat in 2015. This is a significant bunkering down from their punchy and bullish predications of an earthquake and the “People’s Army” rhetoric that we were hearing as late as last week.
‘While many marginal Tory MPs will look at this leap in Ukip support with great worry, some comfort will be drawn from the fact that Labour are getting smashed too.
‘Gleefully it is pointed out to me that between 1992 and 1997, Labour gained safe Tory seats like Wirral South, South East Staffordshire and Dudley West. These had all been Conservative seats for at least a decade. So far under Ed Miliband, Labour have gained just one seat — Corby — which was one that the party had only narrowly lost in 2010. Newark 2014 will not go down in the annuals of history as stepping stone in Ed Miliband’s path to power.’
0005: Sky News’s Adam Boulton suggests the latest (unofficial) turnout figure from Newark is 53 per cent.
0000: Sebastian Payne on why a high turnout might help Ukip:
‘If the turnout is as high as 50 – 60 per cent, it could be good news for Ukip — and bad for Labour and the Lib Dems. These two parties have put in far less effort into the by-election campaign than the Conservatives and Ukip, so their supporters are less likely to have turned out today. Ukip will be relying on those who previously didn’t bother to turn out to increase their vote share, as well as defectors from other parties. However, it’s worth remembering that the Tories have had a strong postal vote operation and there is always the possibility of an anti-Ukip backlash — people turning out not to vote for Roger Helmer.’
2355: Some news from Newark, BuzzFeed’s UK political editor Jim Waterson reports that the ballot boxes are in, and the counting can begin:
+++BREAKING+++: All Newark ballot boxes are in. Now it’s time to release those big money balls.
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) June 5, 2014
2322: According to the Newark Advertiser, the turnout may be as high as 58 per cent:
2320: Harry Cole thinks that the absence of Nigel Farage during this by-election will cause problems for the Ukip leader:
‘Given, as James says, that less than two weeks ago Ukip topped a national poll, the role of Nigel Farage in this election will come under scrutiny if a Tory victory is tight. Tomorrow’s Sun has further embarrassing revelations for the Ukip leader concerning his boozy jaunt to Malta:
“New snaps revealed by The Sun show a tipsy-looking Mr Farage cuddling up to two blondes late on Tuesday night, while swilling a large glass of red wine. Before finally arriving at Newark 4pm this afternoon, Mr Farage has only been to the Nottinghamshire town ONCE in the five week-long two way race with the Tories.”
‘The Tories threw everything at this by-election, with a huge ground operation that test drove 2015 tactics. Ukip, however, seemed rather thin on the ground. For a party preparing to professionalise in order to capitalise on their European and local election success, the Newark campaign could well highlight some serious weaknesses in their operation. Starting at the very top.’
2315: As Mike Smithson of Political Betting has pointed out, Ukip appear to have a female problem. Breaking down the voting intentions from the Survation poll, Ukip looks to have a significantly higher vote share from males in Newark:
2250: Our contributing editor Harry Cole offers some more details on the expected turnout:
‘Sources on the ground are expecting a high turn out of 45-50 per cent. Labour sources are suggesting this could be as high as 60 per cent, though at this stage that sounds dramatic. A higher turnout would help Ukip as polls have shown their voters are the most likely to traipse down to the polling station. To contrast with the 2012 Manchester Central by-election, Labour won then on a turn out of just 18 per cent.’
2240: James Forsyth provides some background to this by-election and what we can expect this evening:
‘When Patrick Mercer quit the Commons in disgrace and the writ was moved for his by-election, there was an expectation that it would be a nightmare for the Tories. With polling day coming just 11 days after the European Election results, the Tories appeared vulnerable to a Ukip surge.
‘But tonight, it looks like this by-election will act as a circuit breaker on the Ukip surge. The Tories are confident of a fairly comfortable hold and you can expect to hear Tories saying that if Ukip can’t win a Westminster seat now, 11 days after they topped a nationwide election, when will they? While Labour coming third will not be a good result for Miliband.
‘Word is that turnout is around the 50 percent mark tonight. Officially, we’re told to expect the result at 3am but I understand it might come a bit earlier than that.’
2235: Welcome to our live coverage of the results from the Newark by-election. The polls have closed and the final opinion poll has just been published — suggesting the Tories will comfortably come first tonight. Sebastian Payne on what it means:
‘The final poll of this by-election has been released from Survation — putting the Conservatives comfortably in first place with 42 per cent of the vote. This is 12 points down from their 2010 result, but still way ahead of Ukip who are pegged at 27 per cent (up 23 points from 2010). Labour appear to have maintained their vote at 22 per cent while the Lib Dems have dropped to just four per cent.
‘Judging by this poll, it looks as if all of the Tories’ efforts in recent weeks have been worthwhile, while Ukip have failed to break through. It’s also pretty bad news for Ed Miliband if Labour come third — they held Newark as recently as 1997. But, will the Lib Dems lose their deposit?’
Here’s a chart of the three opinion polls carried out during this by-election, compared to the 2010 result for Newark: