MADAM – It is always interesting to analyse the underlying messages in any electoral contest, and while the recent Valley by-election is based on a very small sample of Stroud’s voters, it nevertheless yields some interesting pointers.

While the Green Party’s Martin Baxendale was returned for the Valley ward, and congratulations are due to him for that, it seems to me that the real winners on the night were in fact the Labour Party.

Labour increased its share of the vote on a substantially reduced turnout compared with when this seat was last contested in 2011, and indeed Labour was the only party to have previously fought the Valley ward, which managed to increase its percentage of the poll.

In contrast, despite a major effort on their part, the Greens’ share of the vote reduced by almost five percentage points, and that in one of their best and most established wards in the Stroud district.

The real losers, however, were of course the Conservatives.

Their share of the vote shrank drastically from 21.5 per cent to 9.85 per cent and they were pushed into a humiliating fourth place by UKIP, who had never contested this ward before nor previously ever had any presence in it whatsoever.

The Conservatives’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, did not bother fielding (or possibly could not even find?) a candidate, which is something which speaks volumes for itself.

The clear message of the failure of the Conservatives as the Government party and the party of the incumbent MP to achieve even above single figures in this by election, and to prevent a haemorrhaging of some 60 per cent of their votes, is that the contest in Stroud at the General Election in May of next year will be a clear one between UKIP and Labour.

A vote for the popular and hard-working David Drew will in reality be a vote for Ed Miliband.

The only course therefore available for Stroud residents to prevent Mr Miliband gaining the keys to Number 10, with all the serious and worrying consequences for our country which will flow from such an eventuality, will be to vote for Caroline Stephens, the UKIP candidate for Stroud in the coming General Election.

J R Ford