Posts Tagged ‘Eastleigh by-election’

Yes, Eastleigh was bad for Cameron but it wasn’t much better for Ed

01/03/2013, 07:00:56 AM

by Atul Hatwal

There’s spin, and then there’s self-delusion. This morning, Labour needs to remember the difference.

Publicly the party will be busy deflecting blame and attention from its result throughout the day. The spin cycle was already in overdrive last night: “Eastleigh wasn’t even close to being on our key seat list”, “constituency boundary changes moved Labour wards out of Eastleigh,” and “the real losers are the Tories.”

Presenting a positive front is a necessary part of the political process. Fair enough.

But, away from the cameras and microphones, Labour needs to reflect on reality. Forget the lines to take and just think for a moment: fourth. Over half-way through this parliament, we finished fourth.

A win would have been unbelievable. Literally. So this was never an expectation.

Second would have been the actual win. It would have shown that the one nation narrative had resonance with voters and Labour could compete anywhere in the country.

A close third would still have been a good performance and, given Labour’s lack of historical presence in the seat, provided a strong indication that Labour will be competitive in its 30 southern target seats in 2015.

A distant third would have been poor, but just about could have been explained away on the basis of past performance.

But fourth?

Two immediate lessons emerge from this result.

First, Labour fought the wrong campaign. Last week John O’Farrell said, “I’m surprised how much of the literature from the Conservatives and Liberals has been about local authority issues…I’m not standing for the council. I’m standing for Westminster.”

Unfortunately, the voter is never wrong, and it was obvious from the first week of the campaign that Eastleigh’s electors were focused on local issues.  Nothing Labour did could shift this.

That the Labour party campaign did not pick this up and pivot to fighting on issues that matter to voters echoes the disaster of Bradford West: a pre-packed campaign, running on auto-pilot, oblivious to voters’ views on the ground.


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Labour’s bandwagon needs a shove

11/02/2013, 12:43:42 PM

by John Braggins

The first polls are out for the Eastleigh by-election and they give the Tories a three point lead over the Lib Dems, or the Lib Dems a three point lead over the Tories – depending on which poll you believe or how you interpret them.  I know from many years of campaigning that by elections have a special dynamic that means early polls often turn out to be deceptive.

Veteran Lib Dem campaign supremo, Lord Rennard, ennobled, it is said, for his services to the dark art of by-election campaigning, says the Labour vote is there to be squeezed in a “classic two-horse race.” Where have we heard this before?  Well in every Lib Dem leaflet penned by Chris Rennard, at every by-election since the Liberals won Bermondsey in 1983.

In the past this was a largely successful ploy as the LibDems have always claimed they were neither Tories nor Labour and if you didn’t like one or the other, then you could vote for them.  But that was the old politics and today things are very different – voters In Eastleigh can vote Labour precisely because they are not the Tories or the Lib Dems.

Now is time for Ed Miliband to step forward and show he has the vision and guts to pull-off an amazing by-election victory in this ex-railway town. And why not, all the components of an electoral bandwagon are in place.

Tory candidate Maria Hutchings begun her campaign being forced to deny quotes from the past and quarrelling with David Cameron on Europe, gay marriage and abortion.

In 2005 she was quoted as saying “With an increasing number of immigrants and asylum seekers then the pot is reduced for the rest of us, Mr Blair has got to stop focusing on issues around the world such as Afghanistan and AIDS in Africa and concentrate on the issues that affect the people of middle England.” Undoubtedly Ms Hutchings could turn into a liability – her presence in Westminster would certainly send a shiver down the spine of David Cameron.

And with a nasty Tory campaign, if the early comments by party chairman, Grant Shapps, are anything to go by, that will upset the many decent voters of Eastleigh.


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Beastly Eastleigh

05/02/2013, 07:00:39 AM

by John Braggins

The voters of Eastleigh – an old railway town just outside Southampton – lost their MP, Stephen Milligan in unfortunate circumstances on February 7th 1994. A Tory with promise ahead of him came to a tragic end, and was found wrapped in a bin bag after accidentally suffocating himself in an apparently solitary sexual episode.

Fast forward 20 years and an another MP, Chris Huhne, this time a LibDem, was on a fast-track to high political office only to find he was travelling too fast, eventually ending his career in an equally bizarre manner, only far less tragic this time.

So the voters of Eastleigh will yet again face battalions of LibDem Focus leafleters, legions of Tory In Touch deliverers and car loads of Labour Rose activists spreading out across the wastelands of Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh Town and Hedge End.

In 1994, along with my colleague Alan Barnard, I was asked by Labour’s elections supremo, Jack Cunningham, to take charge of Labour’s campaign for the forthcoming by-election. Our remit was to avoid the traditional by-election squeeze on our vote and avoid losing our deposit. We were tasked with finding a way to take the fight to the Lib Dems and to encourage Labour voters to stay with us.

The Eastleigh by-election of 1994 was a turning point for Labour, coming as it did after two by-elections in ‘the south’ – Christchurch and Newbury where Labour’s vote was squeezed almost out of existence. Labour was unlikely to win Eastleigh but increasing its share of the vote and coming ahead of the Tory was seen by Labour’s shadow cabinet as one of the most important by-election objectives in the run-up to the 1997 general election, showing, as it did, Labour could increase its vote in the vital southern key seats.

Straight after the by-election result, when Labour had come second in what at the time was one of only six by-elections since the Second World War to have a swing from Tory to Labour, the recently elected leader Tony Blair was able to say “There are no no-go areas for new Labour.”

In his analysis column for the Daily Telegraph on the Saturday after polling day, Professor Anthony King wrote under the headline “The real winners came second at Eastleigh”. He said “The big news from the by-election …… is that Labour is now back, constituting a real electoral threat to the Tories for the first time since 1979″ and “Such an outcome in a general election would sweep Labour to power.”


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