Eastleigh: more on that poll and who the Lib Dem candidate will be

This lunchtime I was on the Daily Politics with Tim Montgomerie being grilled by Andrew Neil about the forthcoming Eastleigh Parliamentary by-election:

Keep watching to near the end, for this rather helpful quote:

The backdrop to our discussion was the first Eastleigh by-election poll, conducted by Lord Ashcroft and with polling immediately after Chris Huhne’s guilty plea, puts the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats within the margin of error (34% – 31%). The poll also shows a swing back to the Liberal Democrat from the Conservatives since the previous Ashcroft polling in Eastleigh, back in October 2010 (Lib Dems up 3%, Conservatives down 9%).

This current poll actually found more Liberal Democrats than Conservatives, but when (as is standard polling practice) adjusted for likelihood to vote, the Conservatives moved into that slim, statistically insignificant 34%-31% position.

The big challenge for the Lib Dems is the number of former supporters who said in the poll either that they were not sure of voting or that they were now not sure who they would vote for. They have not been lost direct to other parties, but instead are in a political limbo – which means they should be easier to win back than if they had been lost direct to other parties. (This mirrors the more general national picture I found with my exclusive YouGov analysis earlier in the Parliament.)

The Liberal Democrats start the campaign with some significant strengths. Two-thirds (67%) agree that the “Lib Dems do a good job locally” and over half (58%) agree that “In government, the Lib Dems have achieved some good things that would not otherwise have happened, or stopped some bad things happening that the Conservatives wanted to do”.

The Conservatives have re-selected Maria Hutchings, whose views stirred up a fair amount of controversy the last time she stood. They include wanting to see the time limit for abortions cut to 10 weeks and hostile words directed towards both immigrants and asylum seekers. She’s no modernising Conservative: “I don’t care about refugees”.

Labour, meanwhile, are both having trouble finding a candidate and selecting slowly (they’re selecting last of the three main parties and not until next week). To top it off, Alan Johnson has already said in public they can’t win.

The Liberal Democrat candidate will be selected on Saturday evening. My money is on it being someone who hasn’t yet been named in the national media as a possible runner. Have fun speculating who I’m thinking of…

17 responses to “Eastleigh: more on that poll and who the Lib Dem candidate will be”

  1. I suspect you're right Mark Pack 😉 Hopefully we'll have a candidate that a) fits the local narrative and b) has the right credentials to persuade Labour leaners across.

    • Because those people will vote for us anyway. The ability of a candidate to appeal to people not currently supporting is, if not number one on the list, certainly on the first page

    • I was assuming that whoever we selected would, generally speaking, support Lib Dem policies in Government (notice the slightly different form of words from yours I used there), and that this would form a large part of the campaign regradless. But the largest group of potential additional voters we can win appears to be people currently saying Labour but that they might vote Lib Dem instead. So it seems to me that having a candidate that appeals to the largest potential pool of extra votes would be a smart tactical move.

    • To be fair, Chris was always leaning left of the party so another social liberal won't upset the apple cart as far as Parliamentary Party balance.
      I'd personally want a more centrist character but that's what wishlists are for 😉

    • @Ed Maxfield – trouble is what the Lib Dems are doing in government isn't very Liberal – not surprising when our Parliamentary Party has so many MPs from privileged backgrounds – at the end of the day as Clegg's choice of school shows – Turkeys don't vote for Christmas. So we need a candidate who has been to state school and who is or plans to send their children there. As the Gove / Laws curriculum reforms show – people with no stake in our public services can't make sound decisions about them.

  2. Excellent post Mark. Do you know what methodology the Ashcroft poll used for reassigning the "Used to vote LD, but now not so sure"? This is the usual bone of contention between YouGov and ICM.

  3. The article linked by the Eastleigh council leader is a mix of spin and ignorance about Labour selection process. That kind of email is sent out ahead of every by-elections. All selections are open to all members. And the training line is taken outside context (it refers to canvassing). Do you think the control freakery Labour party would let someone at random to stand in a by-election? If there's a shortage of candidates, they can draft in a SpAd, trade union officer or party official at random.

    Having said, it's not difficult to predict they won't win.

    • Canvassing is pretty central to being a candidate, so I think the story does fairly express what's happening – as Labour is saying "don't worry if you're never done one of the basics of being a candidate before, you can still apply".

    • no, the email ends with an invitation to members to go and join canvassing sessions in Eastleigh during the weekend. And it says not to worry if you have never campaigned before, there will be training session before being sent out to knock doors.

  4. Neil refers to it being a good idea to select a candidate that will appeal to people outside core vote who may be considering supporting you (as well as to your core vote). Tories appear not to have followed that advice by confirming what some are referring to as the tea party candidate.

  5. I cannot understand why anyone would vote for the Lib Dems or Labour. The Tories are in meltdown following their weak leadership, mistakes, U turns and lies. UKIP is the only party which will stand up for Britain. Because of the mess made by Labour, exacerbated by Cameron, UKIP deserve a chance. Let's face it, they couldn't do any worse and it may focus a few minds in Parliament if UKIP win in Eastleigh.

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