Nigel Farage has pledged to resign if UKIP win fewer than 10 seats – a stiff ask and one which none of the media give him a prayer of achieving.
The general consensus among the pundits seems to be that UKIP will struggle to hold more than half the 12 seats they won in 2004. Polling day is still over three weeks away so it’s way too early to make any predictions of a UKIP wipe-out, but if things are still looking bleak at the start of June we can expect the fur to start flying over at the Democracy Forum.
In the meantime, the only polling barometer is the result of this by-election in one of UKIPs strongest wards in Hartlepool. UKIP have a councillor in Hartlepool, and achieved their best performance in a Westminster by-election there in 2004 following the resignation of Peter Mandelson.
However, in a seat where UKIP had polled 373 votes in May 2008, with Labour winning with 488, this time UKIP could only manage 300 votes to Labour’s 532, despite having spent the last couple of weeks campaigning in earnest for the Euro elections. By-elections are not necessarily reliable barometers of public opinion, but UKIP would surely have expected to either take the seat or run Labour very close.
Hartlepool Borough - Rossmere: Lab 532, Ukip 300, Lib Dem 166, BNP 157, C 102. (May 2008 - Lab 488, Ukip 373, Lib Dem 258, C 197). Lab hold.
Swing 4.8% Ukip to Lab.