After Rochester and Strood. Where next?

25 Nov 2014
Ukip supporters with an 'I'm voting Ukip sign' canvassing voters during the 2015 UK general election. Wikimedia, Licensed under the Creative Commons

The Danish Nobel prize winning physicist Nils Bohr observed that prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. He wasn’t thinking about the 2015 general election when he said this, but he might as well have been.

Professor Andrew Geddes, Professor of Politics, University of Sheffield
Professor Andrew Geddes,
Professor of Politics, University of Sheffield

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The Rochester and Strood by-election makes things more uncertain. It might get us thrown out of the ‘political science’ club, but here are 5 things that Mark Reckless’ win shows that we don’t know about the May 2015 general election.

  1. We still think of politics as a left versus right clash, but is 2015 going to be an ‘up-down’ election: the people against a political class that they see as failed and out of touch?

  2. If Labour is up then surely the Conservatives are down, and vice versa? But the day after Rochester and Strood both Labour and the Conservatives are down. Is zero sum politics dead and buried?

  3. Can UKIP break the mould? They just won what experts listed as their 271st most winnable seat. Perhaps, as Nigel Farage said, all bets are off? Will support continue to drain from the mainstream parties to their smaller rivals like UKIP and the Greens? If it does, the dynamics of elections and coalition politics are transformed.

  4. Can things get worse for the Liberal Democrats? This question has been asked for the last four years and the answer has tended to be yes. How much lower can they go? In Rochester and Strood they were polling at 1%, with the margin of error this could put them at -2%, which is truly unexplored territory.

  5. Social media was seen as a way for politicians to connect with the electorate and for democratic debate to be widened and energised. Emily Thornberry didn’t get that memo.

These are all things that we don’t know about the 2015 general election. Keep checking this blog for even more.