Eastleigh by-election a grudge match

Canvassing in Eastleigh The Eastleigh by-election is being described as a grudge match

So now we know. Eastleigh voters will go to the polls on Thursday, 28 February.

A short sharp three-week campaign, even before the resigning MP Chris Huhne has been sentenced for perverting the course of justice.

And both coalition parties say they will be throwing the kitchen sink at the contest.

The Liberal Democrats are highlighting tax and jobs as their unique selling point over their Conservative partners.

The gloves are coming off on tax avoidance by millionaires and corporations and Nick Clegg will renew calls for a mansion tax.

There's an acknowledgement that the economic recovery hasn't happened as planned, and a call for more help for those who earn least.

It was Liberal Democrat strategist Chris Rennard who first pointed out an unusual fact about the Eastleigh constituency after the local election results last May.

It is now the only constituency in the country where every local authority councillor, at district and county level, comes from one party.

And that party is the Liberal Democrats.

'Not a protest vote'

It's a strange fact, and a sign of the scale of the task ahead of the Conservatives at the Eastleigh by-election.

Even after the bad headlines over MP Chris Huhne's toxic cocktail of marriage break-up and speeding fine charges the Lib Dem vote increased at last May's local elections.

The leader of the Eastleigh Borough Council, Liberal Democrat Keith House, says "We took the last Labour seat in 2011, whilst in government, just after the tuition fees vote, so we're not just a protest vote, far from it."

Mr House points out that analysing the vote for police commissioner in the Eastleigh constituency a Liberal Democrat topped the vote.

He says party members from as far as Oxford and Dorset have been offering to campaign in the Hampshire Town. They see the by-election as a chance to settle scores with Conservatives.

But Keith House denies that Liberal Democrats have capitalised on local opposition to coalition policies.

"I think we've been on message if you look through Liberal Democrat leaflets we've been putting through doors. But we're not afraid to criticise Conservatives. We're much more pro moving forward with investment in infrastructure than them, and it matters to people."

Industrial jobs

The local council has backed a controversial plan to put £38m into the building of a five star hotel at Hampshire's Cricket Ground, the Ageas Bowl, to provide local jobs.

UKIP's candidate at the last election, Ray Finch, says the economy is key to their pitch to local people.

"My son is 22, he was made redundant two years ago from his apprenticeship but he can't get a job - not stacking shelves at Tesco or anything."

Chris Huhne, announced his resignation outside court Huhne had been the MP for Eastleigh since 2005

He points out that one of the last big industrial employers in the constituency - the Ford Transit van factory - has taken EU grants and moved production to Turkey.

"It was paid for with our money. We're paying for our jobs to be taken off us and given to Turkey, in what possible way could that make sense?

"Eastleigh was a great manufacturing town, there were jobs and a future for people and now there's nothing.

"A lot of it is tied into immigration, the low skilled jobs are taken, by very nice people generally, from Eastern Europe. They've covered that jobs market. We're starting to lose any form of working class, we have no future unless we change things."

Labour know that the loss of Eastleigh's place as a railway town, and other blue-collar employers like the Pirelli factory, means they have to change their appeal.

Neighbouring Southampton Labour MP John Denham says "Labour is fighting this seat very hard indeed, but this is a tough ask for us. We start with one vote in ten, but we know there are tens of thousands who put their trust in either Liberal Democrats or the Tories and now feel let down."

Conservative Anger

So what of the scandal that started all this?

Jerry Hall, chairman of Eastleigh Conservative Association, says the Huhne resignation must affect the vote.

"It's being going on for so long now, people feel angry that they've been misled."

The by-election is a grudge match for Conservatives too. Mr Hall believes that however strong the vote for their coalition partners in local elections, people vote differently for an MP.

"Although we're partners in the government I haven't seen any transfer of the love interest locally - we fight for every single vote."

And he's not worried about the challenge from UKIP.

"In all our canvassing and polling UKIP take votes from everybody - it's not a surprise to find a committed local Democrat say they'll vote for UKIP in a general election."

Jerry Hall says no punches will be pulled as Conservatives turn on their coalition partners.

"It's vital that there's a Conservative here - we want to govern alone and shake off the handcuffs of the coalition."

Peter Henley, Political editor, South of England Article written by Peter Henley Peter Henley Political editor, South of England


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  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    @71 JPublic PFI was used at a time of growth after 20 years of no investment in public services and the NHS.

    PFI replaces old, decrepit hospitals with new today, not in another 20 years time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    @48 ovalball

    'Have cut every public service by around 20% and they are promising to cut more '

    Nonsense. Government spending is up. There are no cuts.

    If I was expecting a 10% payrise next year and 'only' get a 5% payrise that is not a 'cut'.

    You need to learn the difference between deficit and debt too.

    The deficit is down but we need to CUT. Not cut more since there has been no cut.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    66/67 I give. This is a discussion about Eastleigh, I can enjoy the Coalition lose lose.
    Maybe we'll revisit NHS user satisfaction levels in 2015, versus 2010. Enjoy your years of suffering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Due to the long-term lack of funding, only way to breathe life back into the patient quickly enough was PFI.

    Total nonsense - PFI was an ill-thought disaster which the UK public/NHS are paying an horrendous fee for right now. You cannot justify in any possible way Labours total mis-management of the NHS & UK - it is indefensible and their Politicians should be in the dock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    I will get to vote in this election. But I believe I already know the outcome. For many years now Eastleigh has been liberal. And the sheep voters in Eastleigh will vote for them again. Even though the last mp is a criminal I will wager a weeks wages Eastleigh will vote liberal again. It is like Eastleigh residents are completly blinkered to anything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    #68 how come half this labour shadow cabinet are millionaires? dont give me this garbage about labour fighting for the working cause, they couldnt give a toss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Labour do bear some responsibility for the problems; they were too timid and failed to criticise and act against the free market neo-liberal ideology which hands power to wealthy individuals and multinationals. However they were at least reluctant to do it unlike the current bunch who are still gung ho for the ideas that are impoverishing the majority by shifting even more wealth to the top 1%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    59JP I guess you're a little younger. One of key reasons for Labour landslide of 1997 was Tory destruction of the NHS. Waiting times measured in years"

    no, I am not a little younger! Agreed that is just one reason but 'payments in brown envelopes to Politicians' was the main reason Tories lost in '97 - I too voted Labour that year and 4/5 years later - NEVER AGAIN!

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    #55 ronnieboy1 Would the millionaires have done better with the Credit Crunch and Globle Economic Crisis?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I was a Conservative voter for 45 years, never again, this is the most incompetent Government in my Living Memory and that includes the term of Gordon Brown, Mr Gove has just put the icing on the cake from a Coalition Government that has done more U Turns than an Italian Tank in WW2, people just need to sit up and look at this absolutely disgraceful incompetent lot, Osborne,Gove ,Cameron,Clegg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    59JP I guess you're a little younger. One of key reasons for Labour landslide of 1997 was Tory destruction of the NHS. Waiting times measured in years. Due to the long-term lack of funding, only way to breathe life back into the patient quickly enough was PFI.
    I'll give you that this appears to have been spectacularly poorly enacted by civil servants, but this cannot justify your first comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    #59 and further to that labour are responsible for mass immigration that has put working class people out of low paid jobs.....Labour are a complete disgrace they do not stand up for working class people in the uk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    You have to believe!
    We had a common wealth. There shall be a common wealth again.
    In between we have some transient Richard IIIs floating down to the sea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    "If a normal housewife knows that to spend beyond her means is just building up more and more debt why can't that logic be scaled up to National level."

    Because Mrs UK has children, if she cuts to fast they starve and wont have jobs then Mrs UK has to pay for them. The ones that do have jobs may panic and not spend money to help Mrs UK out leaving Mrs UK even more in debt!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Whilst Lab have their fair share of the blame..."

    You clearly do not accept that 100's of needless deaths and 1000's of people suffering under the Labour years in control of the NHS is that bad, do you? I am no fan of any of the 3 main parties but the UK's dreadful situation lays with LABOUR. They ARE guilty of wilful neglect and wholesale mis-management of the UK and 2 wars

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Those blaming Lab for the collapse of the economy should ask themselves
    1. Who caused the same crisis in Spain, France, USA, and in fact in all developed economies?
    2. Who coordinated the international action to prevent a total banking collapse across the world?
    3. Why if Lab borrowed and spent too much UK debt fell from 42% in 1997to 37% of GDP in 2007 before the banks caused the crash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Yes, the coalition partners will be at each other's throats (see political lightweight Grant Shapp's latest comments) and the increasingly pathetic UKIP will proabably slip in the back door and steal the keys peddling its Rule Britannia agenda. Politics and political debate in this country is now scraping parts of the barrel that even a born again cynic like me thought it would never reach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Whilst Lab have their fair share of the blame to take it is noticeable that the bulk of and by far the worst scandels have happened since the last election once the Coalition started starving the NHS of funds to pay for their pet privatisation project.."

    How many more times - the very first NHS hospital to be privatised happened at Hinchinbrooke under LABOUR!! Look it up!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    #51 we cant afford another labour government in our lifetimes...this is a fact.just look around and see the damage they have done, dont take my word for it.


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