Some people like to play fantasy football. Some yet sadder individuals opt for fantasy politics, and one of the saddest is the loathsome Toby Young, unable to wait for the funeral of well-liked Labour MP Paul Goggins before launching into speculation as to the potential outcome of the upcoming by-election in the Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency, which he thinks UKIP might win.
Make election prediction before opening vino
And this is complete and utter tosh: one look at the make-up of the constituency, together with the vote share at the last four General Elections, shows that this one has “Labour hold” written all over it, whether Tobes gets his dream of local Tory and UKIP supporters entering into some kind of informal pact or not. A look at the local Government representation is instructive.
The seat comprises five wards in Wythenshawe (Northenden, Brooklands, Baguley, Sharston, Woodhouse Park) and three from Sale (Brooklands, Priory and Sale Moor). When last contested, these returned three Tory councillors, one Lib Dem, and twenty Labour. So UKIP had some second and third places? They won no seats at all. Zero. Not a sausage. Bugger all.
Mike Smithson of Political Betting considers whether this having been a safe Labour seat may have bred complacency, and talks of declining turnouts, but since 2001 turnout has risen at both subsequent General Elections, and Goggins was a hard working MP whose personal vote will most likely transfer to whoever Labour nominates – especially if it is someone local to the area.
Now look at the likely share of the vote for established parties. The Tories were over 7% ahead of Labour in 2010 and still managed only 25.6%. The Lib Dems were on 23% nationally, and polled 22.3% here. Now Labour is around seven points ahead of the Tories, with the Lib Dems barely in double figures. And the latter’s vote in seats like this is likely to be at least partially soft.
This points to a Labour vote share of at least 50%, which is another way of saying that, whoever comes second, they are not going to lose. Factors like inward migration from other EU member states might be a factor, if there were a significant amount in the area. But the largest number of those coming from countries like Poland came no nearer than Crewe.
“Last night, Lord Ashcroft tweeted that betting on the outcome of the by-election had been temporarily suspended, suggesting that the bookies were busy recalculating the odds of a Ukip victory after several large bets had been placed on precisely that outcome” gurgles Tobes optimistically. But he’s never set foot in the area. Anyone who has knows this is Westminster village silliness.
Bet all you like, Ron Hopefuls. This one is returning to Labour. End of story.