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Wednesday 20 February 2013

Eastleigh – Tory Campaign Cracking Up

[Update at end of post]

Opinion polls taking the pulse of the Eastleigh constituency have been few and far between: at the start of the campaign, the Tories’ Maria Hutchings had a 3% lead over the Lib Dems, but a further poll then put the latter in front. Now, news is emerging that Young Dave’s jolly good chaps are anything between 7% and 10% behind their Coalition partners.

The reason for that is not hard to ascertain: Ms Hutchings first opened mouth and inserted foot by saying that local schools – which had been judged “outstanding” by Ofsted – were not good enough for her son, who at age 12 had decided that he wanted to be a cardio-respiratory surgeon (as opposed to a train driver, gynaecologist or designer of box girder bridges).

Then she described the Coalition between her party and the Lib Dems, which she would be a part of if elected, as a “pact with the devil”. Worse, she had also on one occasion called her own party leader a “sell-out”. Then she told “The Lib Dems have a reduction in seats and yet they might help govern Britain – INSANE”. Maths, such as adding up to 650, is not her strong suit, then.

Meanwhile, the press, which might be expected to lean towards the Blue Team, has become fixated on kicking Labour candidate John O’Farrell, whose hopes realistically do not extend beyond coming third and beating UKIP, while not glossing over every occasion when Ms Hutchings is allowed to speak. Other details haven’t helped the Tories, either.

Political Scapbook, for instance, provided a photo of two rather unfortunately sited Tory election posters, as well as Ms Hutchings’ stance on same-sex marriage. The declaration that the party would fight “an unrelentingly positive campaignhas been ditched as chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps also struggles to preserve the credibility he never had. And it gets worse.

Betting on the result, which on Monday gave the Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton a 69% chance of victory, moved yesterday out to almost 72%. And now, many Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) are proving reluctant to visit the constituency and be seen with Ms Hutchings. On top of all that, one right-winger who likes an occasional wager has deserted the Tories.

Yes, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines has indicated on the Guido Fawkes blog that he is putting his dosh on a “Yellow Hold”. And, although he does not always get it right – spraying £500 up the wall on David Laws not having to resign when the Telegraph outed him  - for The Great Guido to desert the Blue Team is a rare event indeed. So that means just one thing.

Expect the Tories to get more desperate. And then lose the election.

[UPDATE 21 February 1000 hours: just to confirm the shambles that is the Tory campaign in Eastleigh, yesterday brought a visit from London's occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, showing that he was totally loyal to Young Dave, honestly.

With the media circus in tow, Bozza was taken to a pleasant residential neighbourhood which one has to assume had been specially selected to guarantee plenty of photo-ops with Tory voters. As the Indy has reported, he found none. That is A Very Bad Thing for the Blue Team.

Why? Well, any party that has done its homework will know the voting intentions of constituents. In the olden days, these would be marked on cards based on the last Electoral Roll. It would be dead easy to find a street where a visiting "name" would be able to find like minded people.

If the Tories in Eastleigh - or anywhere else - haven't done that level of preparation, then they're not a credible electoral proposition. You can't just assume that the punters will come out and put their cross in your box, and least of all at by-elections.

Bozza should have been bloody annoyed at the local party in Eastleigh for fouling that up. And he would have been dead right to be annoyed. They're a shower. A losing shower]

1 comment:

Chris Neville-Smith said...

I'd be wary about reliance on "private" polls. This outcome is one of many plausible results, but unofficial polls are not reliable. The Times is behind a paywall (thanks Rupert) so I can't check the details, but one factor is that party activists are notorious for wildly optimistic perceptions of the statistical reality. I'm reserving judgement until I see at least one poll complying with British Polling Council rules.

That said, I always thought it was a big tactical error for the Tories to obsess over gaining seats from their coalition partners. They seem to equate a fall in the Lib Dem voting intention with an endorsement for a Conservative government, totally disregarding the fact that the vote's going to Labour. I've no idea why they were expecting former Lib Dem voters unhappy with the party selling out the the Tories too punish the Lib Dems by, err, voting Conservative, but that really does seem to be the logic. Okay, under FPTP a LD-Lab swing can cause a Conservative victory, but how many people do they seriously expect to vote Labour in order to get a Tory and prove a point?

The only chance the Conservatives have of winning the next election is to win voters back from Labour. Labour is not yet invincible, and their are still chinks in their armour. If they really think they can win in 2015 on the back of a protest vote against another party being in coalition with them, they may as well hand Ed the keys to Number 10 now.