The Tory party reacted with striking calm to Douglas Carswell and Ukip’s thumping victory in the Clacton by-election. But this calm will not hold if Ukip and the other Tory defector Mark Reckless win in Rochester and Strood. This seat is far less favourable terrain for Ukip than Clacton and Reckless is a far less formidable candidate than Carswell.
If Ukip take a second seat from the Tories, there might be more defections–the Ukip high command certainly expect more. Even more damagingly for the Tories, there might be a vote of no confidence in Cameron. One Cabinet member warns, ‘If Reckless wins Rochester, there’ll be 46 names’. This Cabinet member continues to say that Cameron would win this vote. But the whole process would be damaging for the Tories and their chances in 2015.
By contrast, if the Tories win Rochester, the party will be buoyed in much the way the Lib Dems were by holding Eastleigh. That is why so much hangs on the outcome of this by-election.