Tories determined to halt Ukip march in Newark byelection
Poll suggests Tories will defend 16,000-plus majority as Nigel Farage’s self-styled ‘People’s Army’ target ‘left behind’ voters.
A ragbag collection of footsoldiers in the self-proclaimed “People’s Army” of Ukip is struggling to keep pace as Roger Helmer strides through the back streets of Bingham, a Nottinghamshire market town once named as the best place in Britain to raise a family.
“Where are we canvassing?” shouts out one of the troops, who range from a retired chap of military bearing, wearing a tweed jacket and brown brogue shoes, to a dishevelled fan of Viz comics. Peering at a crumpled printout of the ONS map of the less affluent north-west side of Bingham a rich source of Ukip votes Helmer announces to his canvassers: “We’re in Carnarvon … something or other.”
With their marching orders, the team wander off at varying speeds from Carnarvon Place into a warren of streets, mainly social housing, where they find a ready audience for their anti-establishment message. “I am right there, it is time for a change,” Helmer is told by Meryl Donovan, the first voter to open a front door to the Ukip candidate in next Thursday’s Newark byelection.
The spirited, if slightly amateur, Ukip byelection operation suggests that the “People’s Army” needs to brush up on logistics if it is to topple the Westminster political establishment. These flaws are not lost on theConservatives, who believe that the byelection, in which they are defending a majority of 16,152, will mark the moment when the Ukip bandwagon is slowed, if not entirely halted, as Britain’s insurgent political force encounters the immense challenge of contesting Westminster seats.
A Sun/Survation poll on Friday put the Tory candidate, Robert Jenrick, in first place on 36%, with Ukip second on 28% and Labour on 27%. The Tories, whose campaign is run from a hall at the back of the local Conservative club in an imposing Edwardian house close to the centre of Newark, benefit from an electoral infrastructure dating from the 19th century, when the appropriately named Viscount Newark won the seat in 1885.
- The Guardian,