Next weeks byelection has the promise to be something different from most other byelections. The byelection was triggered by the resignation of Liberal Democrat heavy weight and ex-minister Chris Huhne after he admitted to have made his then wife to take the penalty for his speeding. The coalition government parties are favorites to claim the seat, both going all in, sending in the big boys to shower their local champions in glory. The contest between in the Lib Dems and Tories in Eastleigh is symptomatic for the strained relationship between the two current bedfellows, but will it show the way for the national election?
We should be careful not to jump on the media bandwagon, lifting the importance of this event out of proportions for the sake of a dramatic story. The editors wants a race to the finish intense melodrama to sell to the voters, even if the truth has to be bent a meter or two. Never the less, we can note that the leaders of all the four largest parties have come to campaign in the Hampshire town, signaling how important it is for them.
At the election in 2010 Chris Huhne won his seat with a majority of 3,864 votes, taking 47% of the total share. Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings, standing again in next weeks byelection, got 39% and Labour 10%. Ukip trailed far behind with 4%.
Polls gives the impression that the Tories and LibDems are neck and neck, one giving the Lib Dems a 5 point lead, while another favours the Tories with a 4 point lead. In any case, both of the leading parties seems to lose support compared with the results in 2010 as both Labour and Ukip is gaining group. Some estimates show that Nigel Fararge’s Ukip troopers can grab a 25% share of the vote, such an giant leap we judge to be unlikely.
A conservative gain of a seat in Eastleigh, with the current economic situation as a backdrop and outside their heartland, would be impressive, so would a increased share of votes. A Tory PM has not made a gain in a byelection since Mitcham and Morden in 1982. The recent downgrade of Britains credit rating and the ghost of a triple-dip recession looming, the Tory mid term blues is written clearly on the wall. It seems that they are willing to play every card on their hand to win, recently deploying London major Boris Johnson, currently the most voter friendly Conservative there is. A win would indeed be a welcome boost for David Cameronas his backbenchers grow more restless by the day.
The drama surrounding the resignation of Chris Huhne seems to only have a marginal effect on the outcome of the byelection. 70% of the people asked and 86% of Liberal Democrat voters saying it will make no difference on their decession. If theu can retain their seat, it would be a moment of joy for the Lib Dems to counter the rumours of their parties pending doom.
Another aspect arguing in favour of the Lib Dems are the solid the party have in the area and it’s dominance in the constituency. Eeastleigh is the only place in the country where every councillor, on district or county level, is a Lib Dem.
For Labour, this byelection is an opportunity to increase their share and send a signal to the nation. It is also a test of Milibands “One Nation” campaign.
On the streets of Eastleigh, locals have voiced their distain for politicians, the trust in the political class is on a historic low, and not without reason. Corruption, expenses scandals, abuse of power and people, the increasingly cut off from the base chattering classes are no friends of the people. Even if the candidates appear honest and true, the gut feeling of the electorate is that he or she is a crook.
We predict a victory for the Liberal Democrats, giving a much need boost for Nick Clegg and his shrinking party. The Conservatives will come in on a close second with both Labour and Ukip gaining ground. Eastleigh is an example of the “squeezed-middle” we hear so much about. Not a depraved town, but not a posh stronghold for Tory toffs either. All parties seek this peoples attention and votes, but the people themselves seems pretty fed up with the preachers from the ivory tower that is Westminster. This byelection reminds us of the stark difference between local politics and the natational show of bread and circus to the people(and bailouts + bonus for the fat cats).