Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Milligan’

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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