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Friday 1 March 2013

Eastleigh – After The Storm

This blog had said it more than once: the Tories were going to lose their fight to take Eastleigh from the Lib Dems. This they did. The opinion polls had the race between the two Coalition partners just about right, barring slightly overstating the support for each. What they did not get right was the final level of support for UKIP, but even so, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his team did not win.

Not that you would have known about UKIP’s failure to capture the seat from the “special” edition of the Daily Mail, where on the explicit orders of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, political editor James Chapman produced a story headed “Tory Torment As UKIP Score Election Coup”, suggesting Farage and Co had won, and not mentioning the Lib Dems until the small print.

Behold Big Brother Dacre's Newspeak

What Chapman and his permanently angry boss could not bring themselves to tell was that UKIP once again had failed to register their Orpington or Birmingham Ladywood moment. As one famous Private Eye Colemanballs entry put it, “to win, you’ve got to come first”. The “first past the post” electoral system – championed by the Daily Mail among others – meant UKIP fell short. Again.

It was no surprise that UKIP polled well: their candidate was smartly turned out and articulate, the party promised all things to all citizens in a campaign where their dodgy sums were not subjected to the scrutiny given the Coalition partners, their press coverage was uniformly favourable, and the bad odour around Westminster politics right now meant all three main parties ceded votes to them.

It wasn’t enough. The simple arithmetic of the electoral system means that the number of seats won by all parties at Westminster remains exactly as before. It also means that the Tories are in deep trouble, as they have to be able to win back seats like Eastleigh – solidly Tory until 1994 – to have a chance of winning an overall majority. Young Dave is this morning under serious pressure.

And a large part of that is down to his party’s candidate and party chairman. When the party moving the writ bounces you into a short campaign, you are effectively stuck with your existing candidate. At Crewe and Nantwich this was to the Tories’ advantage: Edward Timpson had no visible backstory, and followed Eric Pickles’ lead. Fat Eric, a seasoned and wily campaigner, did the rest.

Maria Hutchings, on the other hand, had already shown she was a loose cannon before the campaign started. This continued to embarrass her party. Chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps was utterly clueless, and will continue so to be. Meanwhile, Mil The Younger and the Red Team could sit this one out and watch the Coalition partners kick lumps out of one another, knowing one would lose.

Another loser is Paul Dacre. His readers failed to obey him once again.


Chris Neville-Smith said...

Hmm ... When I noticed attention from the Mail drifted away from Alleged Failure of Leader to Adequately Tackle Alleged Inappropriate Behaviour of Former Chief Executivegate, I suspected they'd decided the game was up and they weren't going to get the Lib Dem meltdown they wanted so much.

Anyway, the real irony is that UKIP might well have won under that funny foreign voting system that the Mail hates so much. The Mail seems to be totally oblivious to the fact that UKIP actually supported AV in the referendum. If we are headed to four-party politics in the next election, we could see FPTP give Labour a governing majority with the lowest ever share of the vote. The Mail's going to love that.

Audacity said...

When I looked at the front cover of the Mail last night, the main story was 'Breast Cancer Betrayal Of Older Women'. I think it's interesting that a UKIP coup that never happened was deemed to be a much more important story and was presumably why the front page headline was changed.