2014 Rochester and Strood by-election

A by-election was held on 20 November 2014 for the UK parliamentary seat of Rochester and Strood in Kent, England.[1] It was called by the sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Mark Reckless, who left the Conservative Party and joined the UK Independence Party (UKIP). He resigned this seat to seek re-election for his new party, which is not required by law.[2]

2014 Rochester and Strood by-election

 2010 20 November 2014 (2014-11-20) 2015 

Rochester and Strood constituency
  First party Second party Third party
Candidate Mark Reckless Kelly Tolhurst Naushabah Khan
Party UKIP Conservative Labour
Popular vote 16,867 13,947 6,713
Percentage 42.1% 34.8% 16.8%
Swing New party 14.4% 11.7%

MP before election

Mark Reckless

Subsequent MP

Mark Reckless

Reckless retained the seat, and polled 42.1% of the vote as the UKIP candidate. The Conservative candidate came second with 34.8%, and Labour candidate third with 16.8%. The other ten candidates lost their deposits, including the Liberal Democrats whose 0.87% vote share was a record low for them, the lowest for a party in government, and the lowest for a major party at a by-election since 1918.[3]

This was the last by-election of the 201015 Parliament.


The constituency comprised the cathedral town of Rochester, Strood, parts of Chatham, Brompton, St Mary's Island as well as the rural Hoo Peninsula and outlying villages.[4]

Reckless's announcement followed that of his parliamentary colleague and close friend,[5][6] Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP on 28 August 2014, resigning and subsequently being returned as MP for Clacton, in north Essex.[7] On 27 September, at the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Annual Conference at Doncaster, which coincided with the eve of the Conservative Party Annual Conference, Reckless announced his plans to follow suit.[2] Carswell won the Clacton by-election (on 9 October 2014) with 59.7% of the vote.[8]

Reckless had previously been recognised as one of the most malcontent Conservatives in the House of Commons, having led a rebellion of 53 Conservative MPs over the EU Budget which inflicted the first Commons defeat on the Con-LibDem Coalition Government.[9]


Medway Council, who administered the election, published the statement of persons nominated on 24 October, confirming 13 candidates would contest the by-election.[10]

Mark Reckless was the UKIP parliamentary candidate.

The Conservative Party fielded Kelly Tolhurst[11] as its candidate[12][13] selected by a postal open primary;[14] Anna Firth was the other candidate, and both were serving Councillors: (Tolhurst representing Rochester West Ward on Medway Council, and Firth representing Brasted, Chevening & Sundridge Ward on Sevenoaks Council). The result of the primary was announced on 23 October, with Tolhurst winning narrowly with 50.44% of the vote. The Conservative Party reported that 5,688 voters took part in the selection process.[15]

The Labour candidate, PR consultant and kickboxer Naushabah Khan, was selected in November 2013.[16][17][18]

The Liberal Democrat candidate was Geoff Juby, a Medway Councillor who contested unsuccessfully the General elections of 2001 and 2005.[19]

The Green Party candidate was Clive Gregory.[20] His name was listed on the ballot as "Green Party – Say No To Racism".[10]

Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First,[21] stood as her party's first parliamentary candidate.[22] Her name appeared on the ballot with the description "Vote British!"[10]

Hairy Knorm Davidson stood for the Monster Raving Loony Party, Nick Long for the Lewisham-based People Before Profit, and Dave Osborn for the Patriotic Socialist Party.

Four independent candidates also declared their candidature: Mike Barker MBE, Christopher "JustQCharley" Challis, Stephen Goldsbrough and Charlotte Rose. Barker is a former MoD scientist who ran on a campaign of making the SS Richard Montgomery safe.[23] Rose had stood in October's Clacton by-election in Essex, describing herself as "standing up for sexual freedom".[24]


The results were declared at 04:15 UTC on Friday, 21 November 2014.

Reckless retained the seat (winning with his new party) with 16,867 votes, a majority of 2,920, with just over 42% of the vote (he received 49.2% of the vote as the Conservative candidate in 2010). This was the second highest UKIP vote share in a parliamentary election after the contest in Clacton the previous month, and represents a swing of 28.3% from Conservative to UKIP. (For a comparison with other high swings, see United Kingdom by-election records).

The Conservatives came second, with their share of the vote decreasing by 14.4 percentage points compared with the 2010 general election, and Labour's share decreased by 11.7 points.

The 4.2% polled by the Green Party was their best result since the 2010 general election, while the Liberal Democrats recorded their lowest vote share since their founding in 1988. It was also lower than any of their Liberal predecessors had polled since the First World War.[25]

Rochester and Strood by-election, 20 November 2014[3][26]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
UKIP Mark Reckless 16,867 42.1 New
Conservative Kelly Tolhurst 13,947 34.8 14.4
Labour Naushabah Khan 6,713 16.8 11.7
Green Clive Gregory 1,692 4.2 2.7
Liberal Democrats Geoff Juby 349 0.9 15.5
Monster Raving Loony Hairy Knorm Davidson 151 0.4 New
Independent Stephen Goldsbrough 69 0.2 New
People Before Profit Nick Long 69 0.2 New
Britain First Jayda Fransen 56 0.1 New
Independent Mike Barker 54 0.1 New
Independent Charlotte Rose 43 0.1 New
Patriotic Socialist Party Dave Osborn 33 0.1 New
Independent Christopher Challis 22 0.1 New
Majority 2,920 7.3 N/A
Turnout 40,065 50.6 14.3
UKIP gain from Conservative Swing 28.3


The election was widely regarded as a key contest between UKIP and the Conservative Party.[27] The Conservatives, being in Government and previous holders of the seat, had the privilege of choosing the timing of polling day, and opted for a later election[28] giving time for a longer campaign and to select its candidate by way of a local primary, which also enabled them to engage with the electorate. As a consequence, there was discussion over whether the costs of the primary should be entered under the party's permitted election expense allowance, as UKIP argued, or not, as the Conservatives argued.[29]

The election agent for Mark Reckless was Chris Irvine who was himself a Conservative Councillor on Medway Council representing Peninsula Ward at the time of Mark Reckless defecting. Irvine promptly resigned as a Conservative Party member[30] on the news of the Reckless defection and sat as an Independent Councillor citing Medway Council's decision to approve planning permission to develop Lodge Hill as his primary reason for leaving. Irvine would subsequently resign his seat on Medway Council[31] after joining UKIP to force a further local by-election in Peninsula ward to be held on the same day as the Parliamentary by-election. Irvine would become the first elected UKIP Councillor on Medway Council, taking just under 50% of the vote.

Michael Crick, of Channel 4 News, reported that the Labour Party was conducting a "token effort", because according to party sources, Labour claimed not to be able to afford a full electoral campaign.[32] Rochester and Strood's predecessor seat, Medway, had been held for Labour by Bob Marshall-Andrews between 1997 and 2010. Marshall-Andrews had been elected despite his very different stance on immigration, telling a voter during the 2001 election campaign: "The difference between you and me is that you are a racist and I am not. [… ] And under no circumstances are you allowed to vote for me. You will not vote for me!"[33]

The Royal Mail refused to distribute leaflets on behalf of Britain First, judging them to be in breach of laws regarding the sending of threatening mail.[34]

The Conservative party have paid a fine without question to the Electoral Commission for misrepresenting their campaign expenditure in their financial returns.[35][36]

Reckless produced a leaflet attacking the Conservatives for failing NHS patients, featuring a picture of him (taken when he was a Conservative MP) with Dr Phillip Barnes, Acting Chief Executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust.[37] The Trust's chair, Shena Winning, complained to UKIP, pointing out that public bodies cannot be associated with any politically biased information that could be seen to give any party an electoral advantage and that he had not asked permission to use the picture. Winning requested the leaflet be withdrawn and a public retraction issued.[28]

At a hustings meeting on 18 November, televised by ITV Meridian, Reckless gave an answer to a question from the floor in which he appeared to suggest that EU migrants could, in future, be subject to deportation. UKIP leader Nigel Farage dismissed the remarks as a "minor confusion"; UKIP added it was not "the party’s policy to round up migrants and put them on a boat at Dover".[38][39]

The by-election was dubbed 'The Battle for Rochester' following the media storm surrounding the defection of Douglas Carswell to UKIP in August 2014.[40] The previous by-election campaign that was triggered by Carswell's defection became known as 'The Battle for Clacton'.[41]

On polling day, Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry tweeted a picture of a house (in Strood) adorned with England flags with a white van parked outside, which drew accusations of liberal elitism including from her fellow Labour Party MP Simon Danczuk among others.[42] Shortly after close of polls, Thornberry resigned from Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet in response to the controversy the tweet generated. The following day, Miliband described the tweet as conveying a "sense of disrespect".[43]


Polling organisation/clientSample sizeConLabLDUKIPGreenOthersLead
20 Nov 2014By-election result[44]40,11334.7%16.7%0.9%42.1%4.2%2.1%7.3% over Con
7–10 Nov 2014Ashcroft[45]54332%17%2%44%4%[46]1%12% over Con
27–28 Oct 2014Survation1,01233%16%1%48%2%2%15% over Con
17–21 Oct 2014ComRes[permanent dead link][47]94930%21%3%43%2%1%13% over Con
4 October 2014Survation/Mail on Sunday[48]67731%25%2%40%1%0.2%9% over Con
6 May 2010General Election Results47,97149.2%28.5%16.3%1.5%4.5%20.7% over Lab

Previous result

General election 2010: Rochester and Strood[49]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Mark Reckless 23,604 49.2 6.6
Labour Teresa Murray 13,651 28.5 13.1
Liberal Democrats Geoff Juby 7,800 16.3 3.9
English Democrat Ron Sands 2,182 4.5 New
Green Simon Marchant 734 1.5 New
Majority 9,953 20.7 19.7
Turnout 47,971 64.9 2.5
Conservative hold Swing 9.8

See also


  1. "Rochester by-election date set for 20 November". BBC News. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  2. "Mark Reckless defects to UKIP from Tories". BBC News. 27 September 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  3. "Mark Reckless wins Rochester by-election for Ukip with 2,900 majority". Telegraph.co.uk. 21 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  4. "2010 post-revision map non-metropolitan areas and unitary authorities of England" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  5. "BBC News – Conservative MP Mark Reckless defects to UKIP". BBC News. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  6. "BBC News – Mark Reckless's journey from Tory rebel to UKIP recruit". BBC News. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  7. "Clacton by-election to be held on 9 October". BBC News. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  8. McSmith, Andy. "Douglas Carswell becomes Ukip's first ever elected MP after a sensational victory". The Independent. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  9. Cameron Commons Defeat on EU Budget 31 October 2012
  10. "Statement of Persons Nominated/Notice of Poll" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 October 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  11. "www.medway.gov.uk".
  12. "Rochester byelection: Tories select local businesswoman Kelly Tolhurst". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  13. "www.telegraph.co.uk". Telegraph.co.uk. 16 October 2014.
  14. All voters to get a chance to have a say in choosing Tory candidate KentOnline
  15. "BBC News – Conservatives choose Kelly Tolhurst as Rochester and Strood candidate". BBC News. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  16. "www.mhpc.com". Archived from the original on 26 November 2014.
  17. Contacts Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine Medway CLP
  18. PR consultant and keen kickboxer Naushabah Khan selected as Labour party candidate in Rochester and Strood KentOnLine
  19. Lib Dems choose candidate Archived 8 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine Maidstone and Medway News
  20. Rochester and Strood by-election candidate Kent Green Party
  21. "Jayda Fransen voted in as Deputy Leader". Britain First. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  22. Francis, Paul (18 October 2014). "George Osborne, Theresa May and Chris Grayling to visit Rochester and Strood ahead of by-election caused by Mark Reckless' defection to Ukip". Kent Online. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  23. "Rochester and Strood by-election: Campaign in final stages". BBC News. 18 November 2014.
  24. "Rochester by-election". UK Polling. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  25. "BBC News – Rochester: Farage looks to more UKIP gains after success". BBC News.
  26. "UKIP's Reckless wins Rochester seat". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  27. "www.may2015.com". May 2015: UK Election Guide.
  28. "NHS Demands Mark Reckless Withdraw 'Misleading' Ukip Leaflet". Huffington Post. 10 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  29. "Judges could overturn a Tory victory in Rochester, lawyers say – Michael Crick on Politics – Michael Crick on Politics". Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  30. "Medway councillor Chris Irvine leaves Tories after Rochester and Strood Mark Reckless defects to UKIP". 29 September 2014. Archived from the original on 7 September 2020.
  31. "I've Resigned From Medway Council To Give You A Say On Lodge Hill". 16 October 2014. Archived from the original on 16 October 2014.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. "Why isn't Labour going for Rochester? – Michael Crick on Politics – Michael Crick on Politics". Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  33. Hoggart, Simon (21 May 2001). "Come on, then! Vote for me if you think you're hard enough". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  34. "Britain First Rochester election mail leaflet dubbed illegal". BBC News. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  35. "Tory election expenses – new claims from party activists". Channel 4 News. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  36. "Tory expenses 'failures': What you need to know". ITV News. 16 March 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  37. "www.medway.nhs.uk". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  38. "UKIP's Nigel Farage dismisses Mark Reckless migrant row". BBC News. 19 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  39. Mason, Rowena (19 November 2014). "Mark Reckless sparks immigration row on eve of Rochester byelection". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  40. "Evening Standard comment: Bankers, Europe and the battle for Rochester". The Evening Standard.
  41. "BBC News – Battle for Clacton: By-election candidates in TV debate". BBC News.
  42. "BBC News – Emily Thornberry: How one tweet led to her resignation". BBC News.
  43. "BBC News – Miliband: Thornberry's 'white van, flag' tweet lacked respect". BBC News.
  44. "Reckless wins by-election". Kent Online.
  45. By-election polling – General Election polling also reported at same source
  46. Based on a table that does not adjust for don't know/won't say
  47. By-election polling
  48. By-election polling
  49. "Rochester & Strood". BBC News. 7 May 2010.