Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the week’s campaign news

by Stephen Tall on February 15, 2013

Mike_ThorntonIt’s only just over a week since the Eastleigh by-election was called. But this first Lib Dem / Tory by-election battle of the parliament has attracted a lot of interest. One aspect that hasn’t been noted much in the media is the level of enthusiasm within the Lib Dems to fight this by-election, and fight it to win.

As the party’s weekly briefing itself noted, Mike Thornton’s campaign has broken the party’s by-election records, with “more volunteers, more money raised and more campaign literature delivered in the opening days of the Eastleigh by-election campaign than any other”.

Here a few of the stats:

  • Well over 1,000 Lib Dem volunteers have visited the by-election HQ since it was officially opened on Saturday morning.
  • On Thursday alone, 2,200 phone calls were made to prospective voters and activists knocked on 1,700 doors.
  • More than 650 individual donations have been received through the party’s website and through email appeals in the last six days.
  • 21 of the party’s 57 MPs have already visited: Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Ed Davey, Vince Cable, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Sir Nick Harvey, Tim Farron, Jo Swinson, David Laws, Duncan Hames, Andrew Stunell, Simon Wright, Sir Robert Smith, Stephen Gilbert, Tom Brake, Roger Williams, Don Foster, John Leech, Tessa Munt, Mark Williams, John Pugh and Adrian Sanders.


 

 

Liberal Democrat heavyweights Vince Cable and Danny Alexander visit Eastleigh again (Southern Daily Echo)
The Secretary of State for Business and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury were in town last weekend – but today re-joined the party’s candidate, Mike Thornton. Mr Cable said: “I think in the week or so I have been here visiting, the real strength that we have is our local roots and local council. We elected a very good representative in Mike who has been a big part of that process. We have very strong community politics and an identity with the area, so there’s a very strong local thing going on here.”

This is more than just the party’s Pavlovian by-election reflex at play. We all know Eastleigh matters for the party’s credibility.

Win, and we show to the media and the public at large that the Lib Dems have a lot of fight left in us.

Lose, and it will be used as evidence by our opponents the party is a busted flush (notwithstanding the special circumstances surrounding Chris Huhne’s resignation).

? Happy birthday to Matt ?

One person deserves a special shout-out: Matt Downey, who’s spending his 17th birthday helping Mike Thornton’s campaign:

 

matt downeyDevotion above and beyond which has been recognised by the Eastleigh Lib Dems with a special virtual birthday card we can sign to show our appreciation of Matt: www.eastleighlibdems.org.uk/matt

How YOU can help

Want to join Matt and 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:

And Liberal Youth members don’t forget: volunteers are provided with reasonable travel expenses, accommodation and £10 for food per day. Further info here.

 

5 key points about the Lib Dem campaign

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow has today highlighted 5 key points about the Lib Dem campaign:

This is rock-solid Lib Dem territory. The Lib Dems took control of the borough council in 1994 and they have held it ever since. They hold 40 of the 44 seats on the council, and all the seats in the parliamentary constituency. This is as yellow as it gets.

The council seems to be popular. House would say that, of course, but the cabbie driving me on the way here (who doesn’t vote) volunteered without me asking that he thought the council had done some good things. House says that for the last 10 years the council has been able to keep council tax increases below inflation. He thinks they are the only council in the country with that record. He also claims they have been able to do that without cutting services.

Activists are volunteering to campaign in droves. Over the last three days they have had 150 people a day turning up, House says. An official said that the party had not seen so much interest in a byelection for 20 years. He said part of it might be explained by activists wanting the chance to take on the Tories.

The Lib Dem candidate, Mike Thornton, has the best local credentials. He has lived here for more than 15 years and he has been a councillor for almost six years. I’ll post more about him later.

Predominantly the Lib Dems are fighting a local campaign. One issue that the Lib Dems (and others) keep mentioning is a plan to extract gravel from a pit near Hamble, an attractive village in the south of the constituency. That is being pushed by Hampshire County Council, which is run by the Tories.

But NO ROOM for complacency!

The Lib Dem campaign is off to a flying start, then. But Eastleigh is still a marginal seat, and the Tories are running hard, too. David Cameron visited yesterday; William Hague was there today.

 

This is the fourth of my round-ups of news from Eastleigh. Here are the first three:

Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of all the weekend’s news

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Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the latest campaign news (12 Feb)

      ;

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

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And finally…

Here’s Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael inviting you all to Eastleigh

* 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.