Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the latest campaign news (26 Feb)

by Stephen Tall on February 26, 2013

I reported earlier this morning the latest poll from Eastleigh — showing a narrow Lib Dem lead over the Tories — but one finding in it is particularly relevant to this round-up. The question was asked: “We’re interested in the extent to which people locally have heard from the political parties over the last few weeks. Please can you tell me whether Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have done each of the following…” And here’s what they found:

eastleigh contacts

In short, the Lib Dems have out-campaigned both Labour and the Conservatives, with 92% of the voters in Eastleigh having been contacted in some way in the last three weeks. (Though that still leaves a hard-core of 8% for us to find…)

Here’s a few Lib Dem activists explaining in 90 seconds why they’ve been joining with thousands of other party supporters in campaigning for a Mike Thornton victory on Thursday:

Here’s a handful of your tweets:

It’s been a tough few days, but…

Here’s a quote from a report in today’s Financial Times:

And that’s backed up by the local newspaper:

Not that that’s stopped the Conservatives relishing it all. Just look at the smiles of Tory activists in a photo tweeted by the party’s deputy chairman, Michael Fabricant:

And here’s another charming Tory official quoted in The Spectator:

… don’t forget that the by-election was triggered by Chris Huhne’s ‘guilty’ plea for perverting the course of justice, and in spite of repeated references in Conservative campaign material to ‘trust’, Huhne appears to have had little effect on the by-election. One Conservative MP I spoke to about the Rennard scandal over the weekend suspects it may have similar limited impact on the Lib Dems. ‘They’re a bit like cockroaches: we can’t get rid of them with Huhne, and we can’t get rid of them with these ‘sex pest’ stories, either.’ This says a fair bit about Tory MPs’ faith in their own party’s Eastleigh campaign, too.

Here’s Polly Toynbee (no friend of the Lib Dems) on it all:

If the accusations are true, Lord Rennard’s gropings will be all too familiar to women everywhere, harried by grimy colleagues fondling, pinching, leering, and pretending women can’t take a joke if they complain. … But (so far) the Rennard allegations look less than criminal: a grubby pawing of women candidates on a training session is revolting and all too horribly common. Yet this squalid little “not safe in taxis” tale is being bracketed with the serial rape of children in homes and hospitals by Jimmy Savile. … As that faulty elision is obvious to most people, the attack switches to the Lib Dems’ failure to investigate. However, Danny Alexander’s stern word seems to have caused Rennard’s resignation “on health grounds”. A less than mortal crime (as revealed so far) was handled too quietly, but their most senior party strategist was ejected. Clegg’s error was to try to finesse what he knew, using what the Mail splashes as “weasel words”. Nonetheless, keep it in proportion.

And finally…

Here’s today’s betting odds:

And a reminder of how you can help Mike Thornton’s campaign:

Next Friday morning will be too late. There has rarely been a more important by-election for the party.

It’s up to us whether we remember it for the right reasons or not…

This is the ninth 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.