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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    The National Health Action Party. Hmmmm, what are their policies on the economy, education, defence, crime...oh they don't have nay? I see.

    One agenda parties are of no use to local constituents or parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    There is on reflection one honest candidate standing Dr Ian MCclennon the candidate for the National Health Action Party. Vote for him and send a message to both this joke of a coalition and the opposition and make them sit up and think for once. UKIP is just a wasted joke for a non entity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Will the real Bob Roberts please stand up? Are you in any way related to that destroyer of industry, jobs, people and sound finance? You know exactly who I mean one Margaret Hilda Thatcher. perhaps that is why you eschew the same failed policies. I am only asking because I'm really interested how you come to write such blather.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I wonder if Mr farage would be so kind to show upo once in awhile for the job he is paid by the taxpayer to do? It would be nice if he managed to show up in the EU parliament so that he can represent his constituents on a regular basis. His attendance record begs the question, Why is he being paid a salry and expenses? Just interested in the honesty of it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    The only message that a Lib Dem victory will send out is just what an odd place Eastleigh must be. Having said that the others don't deserve it, what a shame there is not a really strong 'none of that lot' candidate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.


    You just don't get it do you - Nigel Farage has & continues to lie just as much as MPs from Tory/Lib Dem & Lab......you have one example in my previous post.

    Furthermore - I am an immigrant but no more so than you are (assuming you are born &bred British over hundreds of generations).

    ALL Brits are immigrants, immigration is the history of Britain......

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    The people of Eastleigh, pleae do this nation a favour and vote for non of the above! Please send a clear message to those that are supposed to truly represent the peoples best interests! If it means spoiling all the ballot papers because non are suitable, this message is acceptable! Let them all lose their deposits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    If the rich benefit from losing their money, then it should be done voluntarily. The reason the rich take their money offshore is because of progressive tax, so introduce a flat tax, they'd pay it here and not to the Cayman islands, so we would benefit in a fairer way.
    You're right, I think that benefits should be replaced by pr

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    225 devils

    Probably something to do with labour being in power until 2010 . Not 2007 .

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    . 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
    For the same reason that poverty has decreased since the recession, we measure it in a stupid way. GDP was artificially high thanks to GB's spend spend spend

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    It is such a shame that we label any constituency as a "safe"seat.
    If we want our Politicians to be in charge of us,fair enough.
    But we really should be in charge of them.
    And a "safe" seat will keep some of them very happy.
    And far too complacent...

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Huhne is a lying cheating buffoon, .....defrauding the very people and the government he was supposed to represent
    I can't deny the lying cheating bit, but defrauding? That was more like David Laws, 40K from expenses but no jail and back in cabinet - tis truly 1 law for them another for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    little old me ...whats your proplem about UKIP? considering they havnt had a chance to lie about anything yet. an immigrant are we... from that lovely part of the world called eastern europe...worried are we... in case fair play breaks out and you lot get thrown out..well ok you should be worried.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Let's hope the people of Eastliegh see the light and give the business as usual parties a bloody nose. Try something new Try UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    We need a new common sense part which looks after the people of England FIRST

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Sooooooo..one lot of lying SOBs slagging off another load of lying SOBs..with never a thought for those that they are supposed to represent...SOME THINGS NEVER EVER CHANGE..self serving ..duplitious blow hards...the average candidate then !

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    217. You're wasting your time with Bob Roberts. He's so blinkered he thinks that people unlucky enough to be on benefits shouldn't be able to afford an internet connection (see his previous posts). Perhaps he would be happy to see them living on gruel and shivering in the dark as well.

    He is obviously very at home in the nasty party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    #108 Bob Roberts
    So Bob have the rich been getting poorer? Have the poor been getting richer? The gap between the haves and the have nots has been increasing for the last 30 years & continues to do so. Wonder why the economy is struggling and shops are shutting? The poorest spend more of their income which helps the economy while the rich take it offshore. Spread the wealth & everyone benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    UKIP is not racist party but all three main parties need to realise we have a voice and a vote for UKIP will tell them or point to them listen to the people immigration not only needs to be stopped it needs to be rescinded how are the young and the over 55's ever going to get employment unless migration is tackled? What about the Ford workers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Neither lib dems, conservatives deserve our vote, both have lied on the economy, besmirched those who can not find a job as skivers, and looked after the wrong people. Its time a new party was created one that better reflects society a party for all not just the rich or the unions.


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