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May by-election could be headache for Lib Dems

Michael Crick | 17:14 UK time, Monday, 7 March 2011

There's to be a new by-election in Leicester South, almost certainly on 5 May. The sitting Labour MP Sir Peter Soulsby is standing down to fight the election for mayor of Leicester, also to be held that day.

It will be a huge test for the Lib Dems, who won the previous by-election in the seat in 2004. Soulsby, a former leader of Leicester Council, then took the seat back for Labour in 2005. The Lib Dem MP for the seat between 2004 and 2005, Parmjit Singh Gill, is the only ethnic minority MP the Liberal Democrats have ever had.

In normal times the Lib Dems would have high hopes in the by-election. This time? Forget it. Indeed, they may struggle to come third, fourth or even fifth.

Sir Peter is, incidentally, a good example of how successful council leaders often fail at Westminster. He was overlooked for ministerial jobs by both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.



  • Comment number 1.

    I expect the pain will continue for the Lib-Dems until/if the economy turns the corner and they can then claim some of the benefit.

    So, probably at least another couple of years of demoralising outcomes for the Lib-Dems.

    Clegg will have the hump for quite some time so will it be Clegg over?

    I hope not, his totally unreported speech in Europe last week demonstrates that he, in the modern idiom, 'gets it' at a profound geopolitical level.

  • Comment number 2.

    Surely all eyes will be on the local elections on that day?

  • Comment number 3.


    And until someone in government does, it will not catch on. Cue Dr Wollaston.

  • Comment number 4.

    This seat has a sizable student population, so I fear you might be right about third/fourth place.

  • Comment number 5.

    If the Lib Dems don't get AV they will collapse the coalition. It is all they wanted. Strangely as it may at first seem however, if they get AV they will also collapse the coalition -job done. Who'd be the PM in a coalition?

    Michael crick 'have you become an embarrassment?'

    Sorry but having just watched Newsnight I just have to say I couldn't believe the heckling barrow boy in the red scarf! I know Liverpool gave Manchester United a hiding on Sunday but really Michael, taking it out on on a member of the royal family won't see you getting a knighthood like Sir Peter (Labour careerist-see above)! (smiley)

  • Comment number 6.

    First of all, Sir Peter Soulsby was knighted in 1999, six years before he was elected as an MP. So the argument about the knighthood being compensatory doesn't stand up.

    It is also worth noting that he increased his majority at the 2010 general election with a swing of +6.2%. So it doesn't look like any of last year's 'Cleggmania' had much of an effect in Leicester South.

    Obviously the turnout during a by-election is likely to be lower (perhaps particularly among Labour voters?), but an interesting factor is that the late date of Easter this year means that many eligible students won't be around for the 5 May election date. That probably goes in the Lib Dems' favour, I suppose.

  • Comment number 7.

    Sir Peter is, incidentally, a good example of how successful council leaders often fail at Westminster. He was overlooked for ministerial jobs by both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

    Success at running stuff vs. the other, more important thing(s).

    Go figger.

    How did our Jacquie's porn 'investigation' go, by the way, GOAT-wise?

  • Comment number 8.

    '7. At 3:29pm on 08 Mar 2011, you wrote:
    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain'

    Er, mods... 'GOAT' stands for 'Government Of All Talents', which is why Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown had such faith in the abilities of Ms. Smith.

    What you were thinking of, I have no idea.


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