Voters go to the polls today in a by-election in the central English town of Newark-on-Trent, where Prime Minister David Cameron is aiming to put a stop to the U.K. Independence Party’s recent advances.
UKIP, which has never won a seat in Parliament, is aiming to capitalize on its strong showing last month in European elections, when it came first both nationally and in Newark. For Cameron’s Conservatives, who won 54 percent of the vote in the district in the 2010 general election, it’s essential the insurgent party doesn’t succeed.
The Tories have flooded the seat with activists, with cabinet ministers visiting daily to knock on doors and phone voters. The effort has paid off, according to two polls that put the party well ahead.
“It was a very safe seat at the last election, and it would need a huge swing to actually lose it,” Anthony Wells of pollster YouGov Plc said in an interview. Still, “being able to hold a very safe seat isn’t a huge achievement for the Tories, or something that means they’re out of the woods.”
The latest poll, published June 2 by Conservative upper-house lawmaker Michael Ashcroft, showed the Conservatives on 42 percent support and UKIP on 27 percent. Ashcroft polled 1,000 adults by phone between May 27 and June 1. No margin of error was given.
That result would still be a huge improvement for UKIP, which won 4 percent of the vote in the district in 2010. The party’s candidate is Roger Helmer, a European lawmaker who defected from the Tories to UKIP and was re-elected to the European Parliament last month.
The election was forced by the resignation of Conservative lawmaker Patrick Mercer following a lobbying scandal.
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