Heywood and Middleton by-electionPasted below are the first few paragraphs from a short piece I was invited to write for The Conversation in response to the news last Friday that UKIP had won its first seat in the House of Commons.

To read the article in full, click here.

Humiliated party leaders still can’t deal with the UKIP threat

“Something big is happening here.”

Those were the words of Nigel Farage following the news that Douglas Carswell had become UKIP’s first member of parliament by attracting 21,113 votes in the Clacton by-election.

While his victory came via a 60% swing from the Conservatives to UKIP, it was in many ways unsurprising given that Carswell had swung that way himself just a few months ago, resigning as Conservative MP for the Essex coastal town when he defected to UKIP.

But some 200 miles away, something even more significant was happening in another by-election. In Heywood and Middleton, a small constituency on the outskirts of Manchester, Liz McInnes just held the seat for Labour despite UKIP’s John Bickley winning 11,016 votes – a 17.65% swing from Labour that cut its majority to a mere 617 votes.

Something big is indeed happening here – and clearly, it’s not just the Conservatives who should be looking over their shoulders.

To read on, click here.

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