Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Eastleigh: the most significant by-election yet

As I wrote nearly two years ago: "if Chris Huhne is guilty of perverting the course of justice, then he has to leave ministerial office. It is not good enough to say, as several scribes have, that 'everybody does it'." He has now admitted his guilt and taken the further correct step of resigning as a member of parliament. If the party is consistent in its treatment of representatives who have committed imprisonable offences, it will also consider his membership.

If the cause of the by-election had been different, I would say that the result would be a clear Liberal Democrat hold. Besides the fact that Eastleigh Borough Council has an overwhelming Liberal Democrat majority, LibDems have been increasingly gaining seats from Conservatives in council by-elections throughout England. There is also the intriguing possibility that UKIP will mount a stronger challenge than in 2010, taking votes and helpers away from the Conservatives. The recent "gay marriage" controversy will not help.

The figures suggest that what might be described as the "social vote" will be crucial. If these people stay at home, or vote Labour, it may allow a Conservative challenger in.  Will people understand what Liberal Democrats have been able to achieve in government and allow the fight for fairness to continue? I am sure that Eastleigh LibDems will make sure the message gets through.

2010 result

Chris Huhne                   LDm        24966
Maria Hutchings             Con          21102
Leo Barraclough             Lab            5153
Ray Finch                      UKIP          1933
Tony Stephen Pewsey    EngDems      249
Dave Stone                   Ind                 154
Keith Low                      NatDem          93

Update 2013-02-05 16:20: BBC News Channel reports that \Nigel Farage has ruled out standing in Eastleigh but will instead concentrate on organising UKIP's local council election campaign

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