Baroness Sayeeda Warsi on a possible future Eastleigh by-election, should Chris Huhne resign for any reason:
“It is a target seat and I think we would fight it hard and we would fight it to win. I don’t think the Lib Dems are dug in there. It’s winnable. We will do everything we can to win it.”
Okay, well let’s look at the results of the Eastleigh parliamentary election in 2010.
Chris Huhne: 46.5% (+8.2%)
Tory: 39.3% (+2.1%)
Labour: 9.6% (-11.5%)
So a swing from the Tories to the Lib Dems, with Labour disappearing. But it’s close, right? A swing of just a few percent could hand it to the Tories. Or maybe some tactical vote we’ve relied on previously could disappear? Maybe there are plenty of people in Eastleigh who prefer to vote Labour but vote for Chris because they know the Tory might get in? Well, let’s take a look at the 2011 local elections in Eastleigh, shall we? They may give us insight into what these tactical voters have done and also whether the Conservatives have made any progress.
Liberal Democrats: 38 (+3)
Conservatives: 4 (+0)
Labour: 0 (-1)
Independent: 2 (-2)
So last May, Labour lost their only seat left in the council despite a huge surge nationally, the Conservatives gained none and the Liberal Democrats gained three? It sounds like there probably aren’t many people in Eastleigh that voted Lib Dem despite preferring Labour or they probably would have voted Labour in 2011. Indeed, with such an overwhelming majority on the council, it’s hard to imagine that there’s much anti Lib Dem sentiment in Eastleigh. Anti Chris Huhne there may or may not be, but that’s irrelevant.
But, Lib Dems are getting wiped out in elections at the moment, right? The Tories should cruise to a comfortable majority? The short answer is no. As a previous post of mine illustrates, in parliamentary by-elections since 2010, the Lib Dem share of the vote has held up better than the Conservative vote:
By my calculations, the Con vote in by-elections has fallen on average by 7.5% and the Lib vote by 7.2%.
Not to mention all the local gains we’ve been making in by-elections across the country, particularly from the Conservatives. I can understand why Sayeeda Warsi feels compelled to use her fighting talk, but that’s all it is, talk. The Conservative election machine failed to win them the 2010 election and if the situation arises, it will fail to win them Eastleigh.