Could Labour cause an upset in Eastleigh?

8th February, 2013 5:58 pm

When Chris Huhne resigned on Monday, I scoffed at those who suggested Labour had any chance of winning the seat. For the avoidance of doubt – I still don’t think there’s much (if any) chance of Labour winning in Eastleigh. But I no longer think that we’ll get trounced.

Today’s Ashcroft constituency poll has Labour in 3rd place – over 10 points behind either the Tories or the Lib Dems. That said, labour’s vote is up 9 points on 2010 (nearly doubling our vote) and when likelihood to vote is removed from the equation, Labour’s vote goes up to 23%.

All of this is happening before Labour selects a candidate, in a part of the world where we’ve traditionally been considered somewhat moribund and without a single councillor to our name. But something is happening on the ground. I’m told that dozens of party activists (and several who aren’t party members) have been heading to Labour’s Eastleigh HQ since Huhne resigned on Monday. Today – as the photo at the bottom of this post shows – there have been large teams of canvassers led by John Denham out and about in the constituency.

It’s not going to win us the seat, but it’s the strongest presence we’ve had in the constituency in perhaps 20 years.

So can Labour cause a shock on the South Coast? Yes – but winning is not the only way for causing a shock. Coming second (or even a strong third) would require a huge improvement in Labour’s fortunes in Eastleigh – and would be a significant upset, as it would require a huge swing to Labour. With a potential 4-way split in the vote, a good finish is possible with a strong campaign, a good candidate and lots of time from volunteers. I’m not as confident as Luke Akehurst (not by a long shot) but I am increasingly of the view that we can at least double Labour’s vote (as a percentage) since 2010, and put the party in the mix for the seat. And if you’re in the mix for the seat – unusual results can happen. Ask George Galloway.

The candidate selection and volunteer mobilisation of the campaign will be crucial – if you can make it down to the seat to campaign, details are available here. I’ll be down there myself in a week or so.

Labour activists on the campaign trail in Eastleigh. Want to join them? Click here.

photo

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  • Dream on

  • tcgriffin

    The Lib Dems will certainly try and win over left leaning voters on the grounds that only they can stop the Tories. Labour needs to turn that message back on them

    If Labour do poorly, it will raise questions about whether the party can hold on to Lib Dem switchers in 2015. If Labour does well, even if it doesn’t win, it will help force the Lib Dems on the Tories’ ground, reinforcing the divisions on the right.

  • NT86

    IMO Labour could have already selected a candidate by now. Nonetheless, it needs to be someone preferably local, has a sound understanding of the town and is an individual. I mentioned in another article on here that for Labour to make a mark on middle class England, you need candidates on the level of Gisela Stuart. She is like the blueprint of how to maintain support in suburbia despite numerous challenges from the Tories over the years. That is how to win over these kinds of seats over several Parliaments (notice how she defied the odds when so many of her colleagues lost in 2010).

    But it sounds fairly promising that non-members are also heading to Labour for this. Pursuing both the Lib Dem vote and the non-voter is key and I read earlier this week that the Fabian Society (I think) reported that Labour appear to be making these in-roads.

    All the party can hope for is a strong showing on the 28th. Even if it deprives the Lib Dems of the seat, it then means that Labour can clear the way as potentially the main contender in Eastleigh in 2015 and/or 2020.

    P.S. The Conservatives have re-selected Maria Hutchings as their candidate. Famously heckled Tony Blair. Judging by certain quotes from her, she seems like another Nadine Dorries in the making. So there’s the downside of letting the Tories back in.

  • Any idea of who the possible candidates are?

    • Allegedly john o’farrell has said he will put himself forward for consideration.

    • Allegedly john o’farrell has said he will put himself forward for consideration.

  • leslie48

    Hampshire not far from Winchester looks worrying to me – is this the nightmare scenario of Lib Dem seats being lost to the Tories. The press will play it up as a battle between soft Libs and hard Cons! Both Coalition parties however so UKIP and Labour slogging it out. All that horrible anti-Europe propaganda… ghastly thought. Labour should not attack LibDems but go for the really enemy.

  • Gabrielle

    Maria Hutchings is an odd choice for the Tories. Some of her views – like linking the MMR with autism, reducing the time limit on abortion to 10 weeks, and having an issue with fluoride in the water – indicate that she’s a bit of a loose cannon.

    According to David Laws’s 22 Days in May, Huhne was keen on a Lib/Con alliance even before the election. Would it be too far-fetched to imagine that the Tories – who selected MH for the 2010 election as well – were happy to have Huhne regain his seat? And they’re fairly happy to relinquish this seat again to the LibDems?

  • Gabrielle

    At any rate, Labour do have quite a few advantages in this election.

    – A Tory candidate who may alienate people who would otherwise vote Tory,
    – A LibDem who will not be able to argue that a vote for their party will keep out the Tories, and also has Huhne’s reputation overshadowing him or her,
    – and UKIP hoovering up Tory votes.

    The National Health Action party have selected Dr Iain Maclennan. Never under-estimate the esteem that the general public have for doctors.

    Eastleigh isn’t particularly posh. It’s got a sizeable working class and lower middle class population, who are particularly badly hit by this government.

    Labour could do a lot better here than expected.

    • NT86

      I hope so. But Maria Hutchings (Tory candidate) holds the kind of populist views which so many right wingers love to hear.

    • Redshift1

      The Health Action Party will split the Labour vote. I don’t see how that helps us.

      • Not if Labour refrain from standing a candidate and instead support Dr. Iain Maclennan, the National Health Action Party candidate.

        It’s the surest way of delivering an almighty hammer blow against the Tory & Lib Dem’s lobbyist driven NHS privatisation agenda.

        Can there be a better One Nation cause?

        • But we won’t have delivered that blow, Dave. Labour needs to contest Eastleigh. Although, if the NHA Party show any strength there (and that’s a big ‘if’ – they’re unlikely to keep their desposit, IMO) there could be some logic to a pact with them under which we would withdraw in some safe Tory and affluent Lib-Con marginal seats in exchange for them leaving our safe and target seats alone (there’s precedent for that – Tatton in 1997). That still might risk giving them prominence, though, or undercut our One Nation message.

        • But we won’t have delivered that blow, Dave. Labour needs to contest Eastleigh. Although, if the NHA Party show any strength there (and that’s a big ‘if’ – they’re unlikely to keep their desposit, IMO) there could be some logic to a pact with them under which we would withdraw in some safe Tory and affluent Lib-Con marginal seats in exchange for them leaving our safe and target seats alone (there’s precedent for that – Tatton in 1997). That still might risk giving them prominence, though, or undercut our One Nation message.

        • But we won’t have delivered that blow, Dave. Labour needs to contest Eastleigh. Although, if the NHA Party show any strength there (and that’s a big ‘if’ – they’re unlikely to keep their desposit, IMO) there could be some logic to a pact with them under which we would withdraw in some safe Tory and affluent Lib-Con marginal seats in exchange for them leaving our safe and target seats alone (there’s precedent for that – Tatton in 1997). That still might risk giving them prominence, though, or undercut our One Nation message.

          • Elliot, the advantage for Labour is derived from the prominence achieved by NHA – the greater the prominence the greater the advantage. 50 seats are to be targeted by NHA in 2015, these seats are currently occupied by the arch-privatisers/marketisers (NHS-wise)* – Labour (4th in the latest Eastleigh polling) should give some thought to this before the selection meeting on Tuesday.

            * http://news.uk.msn.com/health/anti-nhs-reform-party-targets-seats-2

  • aracataca

    Let’s stop this. We have no chance of winning this seat. 20%-25% for us would be amazing and can we have a local working class candidate please?

  • Stephen Brasher

    Dream on? Well I think we should if not dream, then hope. Mark Senior’s (lib dem) remark is precisely the sort of thing that people used to say to the Liberals in places where they now hold the parliamentary seat and the council. it’s all about growing your vote and showing voters that you are competitive. There are plenty of places for all three of the main parties where they couldn’t win if they sent their entire membership and spent their entire annual budget. This isn’t one of them. In the 1994 by election the Labour candidate wrote a pamphlet called “How we won by coming second”, but doubling the vote or more would be equivalent. If you do nothing then you will be squeezed even further.

  • Redshift1

    This is silly talk. I’ve already heard of one local organiser from a marginal southern seat apparently being under orders to go to Eastleigh, completely cocking up his plans for the next month or so. We can run a strong campaign without ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at it. Our organisation has already been distracted with too many by-elections last year.

    The South-East must have one officer it can just get to run this without drafting in everyone who is working hard to build up our organisation in the marginals. We don’t have that many people to spare.

  • DancingMice

    Jim Knight won S Dorset 2001 & 2005: we used to hold Gloucester: anything is possible.

  • Pingback: The Eastleigh by-election isn't a disaster for Labour. But it's pretty damn close – Telegraph Blogs()

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