Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the latest campaign news (13 Feb)

by Stephen Tall on February 13, 2013

Here’s a round-up of news from the past 24 hours in the Eastleigh by-election…

Mike Thornton’s campaign in full swing

mike thornton david chidgeyThe Lib Dems’ Mike Thornton — pictured here (by Jon Aylwin) with 1994 by-election victor David Chidgey — has been focusing on how the pupil premium, the party’s flagship education policy, has been helping Eastleigh schools:

Lib Dems boost Pupil Premium (Southern Daily Echo)
The policy introduced by the Liberal Democrats has invested £1.7m in Eastleigh schools, and is aimed at ensuring every child has a fair start in life.

Just one of the reasons why volunteer help has been pouring in to help Mike retain the seats for the Lib Dems:

And why Mike’s campaign saw another three Lib Dem MPs doing their bit as well today:

Labour opts for comedy campaign

The Labour party has chosen its man, satirist John O’Farrell. It’s a choice that’s gone down well with the Twitterati and The Guardian. What Eastleigh residents will make of his parachute jump into their area is another matter:

Tories party like it’s 2001

The return of the nasty party? asks Channel 4′s Michael Crick, highlighting Tory candidate Maria Hutchings’ distinctly un-Cameronesque email to Tory activists focused on cutting welfare, cutting immigration and cutting loose from Europe. As Crick points out:

Note how much Hutchings’ stresses traditional right-wing issues such as immigration, Europe and welfare, as she tries to distinguish the Tories from their coalition partners. And of course these are also the issues which UKIP has been pursuing relentlessly in recent months, with considerable success. There’s not a hint of David Cameron’s attempts since 2005 to modernise and “detoxify” his party.

And speaking of Ukip, its candidate has been forced to apologise for her inflammatory accusation that future Romanian immigrants are a crime wave waiting to happen:

UKIP candidate Diane James says sorry over Romanian ‘crime’ slur (The Times £)
Diane James, a borough councillor from Surrey who only joined the party in 2010, has called for a freeze on all immigration. Launching her campaign this morning, she argued that there was a problem with “the crime associated with Romanians” and suggested that areas with large numbers of Romanian immigrants have high crime rates.

The Romanian ambassador to the UK was, perhaps unsurprisingly, none too impressed.

And speaking of minor parties, the Greens will be sitting Eastleigh out:

No Green candidate for Eastleigh by-election Southern Daily Echo)
THE Green Party has decided not to put forward a candidate for the by-election. A spokeswoman confirmed a Green Party representative will not be added to the candidates list.

Lib Dems taking on the Tories…

A few journalists — presumably those who’ve never heard of Scotland and Wales — have asked how the parties which govern together can possible fight each other.

The Lib Dem campaign is showing exactly how:

thornton children centres

Mike Thornton and the Eastleigh Lib Dem team are standing up for our town’s children’s centres, working to reverse brutal £3million Conservative cuts. Local Conservatives promised local people that there would be no front-line cuts to our centres. Now the truth is hitting home, with opening hours slashed and staff redundancies.

(Though as Isabel Hardman notes here in the Spectator both Lib Dems and Tories are glossing over where they agree nationally in favour of some full-throated local differentiation on where to build desperately needed new housing.)

… And to Labour

eastleigh bar chart
Lib Dem by-election devotees will be delighted to see the trusty bar-chart is in prominent place.

It clearly shows that Eastleigh is a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and Tories, with Labour well out of it.

Perhaps John O’Farrell will feel inclined to take his own advice, as highlighted by Mark Pack (and then nicked by the Telegraph without credit), and advise Labour voters who don’t want to see a Tory elected to Eastleigh to back the Lib Dems?

And finally:

Want to join the hundreds of Lib Dems who are doing their bit to help get Mike elected as the next Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh on 28th February? Here’s a reminder of how YOU can make a difference:

  • Volunteer to help in Eastleigh itself
  • Make phone calls for the party if you can’t get there in person
  • Give a donation to help fund the campaign.
  • And a particular shout out to all Liberal Youth members:

    For the hundreds who’ve already helped, the party’s recorded this Thank You video — so play us out, guys

    * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.