Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the latest campaign news (21 Feb)

by Stephen Tall on February 21, 2013

It was another day when more than 200 Lib Dem volunteers had signed-in by lunchtime to help Mike Thornton’s by-election campaign in Eastleigh. It really is quite amazing to see the party’s by-election campaign in full swing.

The big push will come this weekend, the final one before polling day — you can sign up to help here:

Eastleigh: The BIG weekend
So far our campaign in Eastleigh has broken all attendence records in recent memory – the challenge this weekend is to go even further. Can YOU help us beat the all-time by-election attendence record, and give local campaigner Mike Thornton the best possible boost just before polling day?

eastleigh food hqWith hundreds of volunteers flocking to Lib Dem HQ every day to lend a hand, party staff are ensuring those who volunteer their time and energy are properly fed and watered (see right).

Of course all this activity costs money. So if you haven’t donated yet — and well over 1,000 donations have been received in the first fortnight of the campaign with an average value of £48 — then please make today the day you give what you’re able to support the campaign.

Here’s the link to make a donation to help elect Mike Thornton.

farron hooveringOnce again, MPs were present along with party members, and performing a variety of functions. Here, for instance, is party president Tim Farron.

Here are links to other ways you can help:

And here’s a thank you from Mike to everyone who’s done their bit so far:

The Tories’ maverick campaign stutters on

Boris Johnson hit Eastleigh on Wednesday to give his backing to Tory candidate Maria Hutchings. (It must’ve been Conservative HQ’s nightmare come true.) For all the bubbly Boris bluster, though, the visit didn’t go exactly as planned, as today’s reports of the London mayor’s walkabout illustrate:

Voter: “Oh my God [pause]. No, no thank you,” as if Boris was selling brushes. Mr Mayor is not easily discouraged. “A very good candidate,” he says, gesturing at Maria Hutchings as if she were a sample brush. After a brief exchange, Johnson and the Tory candidate retreat. “It’s going very well,” he says, which is Boris-speak for “no it isn’t”. (The Guardian)

Mrs Hutchings was at Boris’s side, but was rarely getting a word in edgeways. Still, Boris talked her up, in his unique fashion. “A strong, original candidate!”
Hmm. “Original.” Not the most reassuring form of praise. (“How do you like my new dress, darling?” “Well, it’s… original.”) … Onwards down the street we jostled. Despite Boris’s most energetic efforts, strikingly few householders – or, to put it more precisely, none – were declaring their support for the Tories. (Daily Telegraph)

… across the road a man had already voted by post – for the Lib Dems. “Solid Liberal,” the Mayor complained grumpily as he walked away. Or did he say “sodding Liberal”? It was hard to tell. Either way, the canvassing session was curtailed shortly afterwards. (Independent)

Even without Boris’s, erm, help, Maria Hutchings was finding the going tough. Gagged by Tory HQ as soon as the by-election started to avoid repeats of her “I don’t care about refugees” comments, in trouble for inflammatory tweets she sent during the London riots, she’s also been barred by the party’s minders from appearing on the highest profile hustings of the campaign to date: today’s BBC Radio 5 Live debate on Victoria Derbyshire’s show. Paul Waugh reports:

All the four main party candidates (LD, Con, Lab, UKIP) have been invited and it should be the highest profile hustings of the campaign to date. It should be lively event. Except, I’m told, there will be one absence: Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings is ‘too busy’ to attend, the BBC has been informed.

The reason for her absence: she’s meeting a Conservative cabinet minister then, and it couldn’t be re-arranged. Hmmm. As Steve Richards notes in the Independent today:

The lesson from Eastleigh is simple: the Conservative leadership has lost control of the party
… Some Conservative MPs who have visited the constituency are downbeat, expressing concern that they have got the wrong candidate. She is not what any national leadership would regard as an ideal candidate for a high profile by-election. It might be that Hutchings’ outspokenness and blunt authenticity will have a populist appeal, but, whatever the outcome, some voters will note the discordance between the messages from the national leadership and its candidate. Voters can tell when all is not quite right. The awkward relationship between the national and the local contrasts with the relatively smooth campaign fought by a Liberal Democrat machine, one that is showing that in certain parts of the country it remains reasonably well-oiled in spite of the impact on the party that Coalition has had.

It’s even prompted a ‘Question To Which The Answer Is No, Not Yet’ from the Tories’ favourite magazine: Have the Tories lost Eastleigh?

And finally, the other parties

Team Ukip, thought to be pushing Labour into fourth place, revealed their latest supporters — two defectors from the Lib Dems. A little bit of context might be helpful, though — here’s Mark Pack:

One of them, former Mayor Glynn Davies-Dear, has a particularly lively track-record, having got into trouble and been censured for driving a car without a car tax disc. He then lost his seat in 2012 after failing to get his nomination papers in on time. (He says he posted them several weeks in advance and only realised there was a problem when the list of nominated candidates was published, making the basic mistake of failing to check his nomination papers had been received and were all ok, which is standard practice for candidates and agents in British local elections.) Aside from switching to UKIP, he also appears on the latest Tory election leaflet (!). The other, Andy Moore, did restand after leaving the party and was defeated in 2011. He subsequently made a complaint about the conduct of the Lib Dem campaign, which was rejected.

Meanwhile Labour, who’ve found it tough-going in a seat where they came second in Eastleigh’s previous by-election in 1994, has been forced to deny suggestions that John O’Farrell was their second choice celebrity candidate after TV presenter Fiona Phillips turned Ed Miliband down. Still, at least MP Tristram Hunt believes in the party’s chances: How Eastleigh will show Labour is working.

Interested in the latest betting odds in Eastleigh? Here you go:

But let’s leave the final word, appropriately enough, to Mike

This is the seventh of my round-ups of news from Eastleigh:

And you can read my Co-Editor Mark Pack’s rounds-up on his site here.

* 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.

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.