U.K. By-election In Eastleigh Today
In the middle of England's south coast is Hampshire and in the middle of Hampshire's south coast, just east of Southampton is Eastleigh, where today's by-election for Parliament is being decided. Affluent, it was a traditionally Conservative Party bastion from the time it was created in 1955 until 1994 when they turned to the Lib-Dems, who have represented it in Parliament ever since. The latest Member, Chris Huhne, has been a very senior Lib-Dem politico and the coalition Conservative/Lib-Dem government's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change-- until he was forced to resign as a Member of Parliament for, basically, trying to avoid a traffic ticket for speeding (10 years ago) and then lying about it. The Liberal Democrats have said Huhne intends to voluntarily remove himself from the Privy Council, meaning he will lose his "Right Honourable" title. And that brings us to today's election to fill his seat.
In the 2010 General Election, Huhne had been reelected with 46.5%, a healthy increase at Labour's expense. Maria Hutchings represented the Conservatives (as she is again today) and came in second with 39.3%. In 2010 Labour was pulverized and wound up in third place with a measly 9.6% (down from 20.6 in the previous general election). They hope to do better today. But so do 13 other candidates, from a bizarre range of parties from the Wessex Regionalist Party, the Elvis Loves Pets Party, the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party, and the Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party to the neo-fascist UK Independence Party, which has no Mexicans to scapegoat so is rousing the rabble with tales of Bulgarian and Romanian hordes sweeping over Britain.
Humiliating their coalition partners is the wet dream of the Conservatives these days but today's by-election isn't the venue where that's likely to happen. Under fire from all sides because of his dismally failed Austerity agenda, which he says he's doubling down on, (and for bucking his own party on marriage equality for gays), David Cameron looks like the man with the most to lose.
Eastleigh is one of the Conservatives’ target seats, one of the constituencies the party believes it must win to secure a majority at the next general election. They are fighting to take the seat from the Liberal Democrats. The outgoing Lib Dem MP has admitted to a criminal offence and given up his seat. The Lib Dem leadership is drowning in reports that senior figures turned a blind eye to a sex pest in their ranks. The Lib Dems have been the biggest losers from Coalition, shedding many of their natural Left-leaning voters since getting into bed with the Conservatives.The BBC posed a series of questions from locals to all 14 candidates in the race. This one seems relevant to anyone anywhere: "I've seen a lot of negative campaigning, which is one of the things that disengages people from politics. What are your core values and the positive reasons why I should vote for you?"
Yet for all that, the Tories still show the signs of a party facing defeat. Indeed, No 10 seems to have started to writing its script for a loss: MPs are being told that any Conservative defeat would be down to a strong Ukip performance, the Ukippers picking up anti-Tory votes from the Lib Dems and Labour. Don’t be surprised if Tory high command tries to offer the troops a strategic silver lining in the tactical cloud, arguing that Eastleigh could ultimately help the Tories see off the Ukip threat in 2015. This proves that a vote for Ukip only costs the Tories seats, they’ll tell disaffected Conservatives flirting with Farage’s mob.
And no doubt the performance of Ukip (and Labour, come to that) will be an interesting part of the post mortem examination in Eastleigh. But it will be a secondary issue. If the Lib Dems do hold the seat, the single, central, inexorable and dreadful fact will be this: a Conservative loss in a seat the party could and indeed must win, in remarkably favourable circumstances.
Colin Bex-- Wessex Regionalists: "Wessex Regionalists are campaigning for bottom-up, proportionally representative local government with sovereign power vested in the parish councils, county councils accountable to the parishes, and a Wessex regional assembly accountable to both. This would replace top-down diktat from Westminster and Brussels and would unite the currently divided British kingdom by unity through diversity."Labour hopes to nationalize the election by hitting the Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition's unpopular and failed economic policies (Austerity).
David Bishop-- Elvis Loves Pets Party: "Core values include getting vets fees down, banning air guns and having a Benny Hill statue in Eastleigh."
Jim Duggan-- Peace Party: "We agree that negativity can cause disengagement in politics and we therefore aim to bring a positive message of peace into the arena. Our core values are, in a nutshell, peace, justice, sustainable environmental policies and most importantly treating others as we wish them to treat us-- with love and compassion."
Ray Hall-- Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party: "I am particularly concerned about the closure of public houses. If there is a reduction in excise duty on draught beer, the ordinary working guy can enjoy his beer, the barman can keep his job, the publican can keep his business and the government can keep the duty from all the other drinks. It's a win win win win."
Howling Laud Hope-- Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party: "Vote for us because we have seen it all before, heard it all before and we still don't believe it. Don't vote for the Tories, Labour of the Liberals-- vote for the really loony party this time. Vote for insanity; you know it makes sense."
Maria Hutchings-- Conservative: "I would be a strong local champion for the people of Eastleigh. But a vote for me would also be a vote for David Cameron's clear plan to fix Britain by cutting taxes on hard-working families, making our welfare system fairer, controlling immigration and standing up for Britain in Europe."
Diane James-- UK Independence Party: "A vote for UKIP is a vote for a positive vision for Britain. It's a vote for self government, a vote for real power being given to residents of local areas and a vote against uncontrolled immigration which is having a severe effect on local communities in housing, schools, housing and transport. It's a vote for putting British people first."
Dr Iain MacLennan-- National Health Action Party: "My core values are openness, honesty, integrity and rebuilding true democracy. I would vote in Parliament according to my conscience and the wishes of constituents insofar as they are the interests of the whole community. I have worked as a doctor for more than 30 years. I am used to listening to people's problems and acting as their trusted advocate."
Kevin Milburn-- Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship": "The Christian Party does not campaign negatively; it offers an ear and a voice for the people. It stands for sound moral values; strong families; healthy children; individual freedom within the law; educational and training opportunities; self-sufficiency in energy supplies; buoyant economy; safe environment; strong national defence; referendum on Europe and a United Kingdom."
John O'Farrell-- Labour: "I've met hundreds of residents who are finding things tough, with living standards squeezed and prices rising. I've set out a positive alternative to the Tories and Lib Dems, for example reinstating the 10p tax rate and campaigning for investment in the road and bridge to open up the River Side site north of the airport for thousands of jobs."
Darren Procter-- Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: "I too have felt disengaged and that is why the working class of Eastleigh should vote for a worker on a workers wage, rather than a career politician jumping on the gravy train. Working class values need to be reinstated with people who understand the needs of the community. I am that person to fight cuts and sleaze."
Danny Stupple-- Independent: "Working as a dispute-resolution expert in the construction industry for 28 years has given me the understanding and skills to help resolve the major issues we have surrounding new housing in our borough. I hope that my years of commitment to this area show who I am and what I can offer in education, community work and in supporting family life."
Mike Thornton-- Liberal Democrats: "I believe in creating a stronger economy and a fairer society so everyone can get on in life. I've lived in the area for 20 years and a vote for me would be a vote for a hard-working local MP who will protect green spaces, deliver tax cuts for ordinary workers and bring jobs and investment to the area."
Michael Walters-- The English Democrats-- "Putting England First!": "My core values are based on my Christian faith and a liberal background. My attitude is let's solve problems not create them and tell the truth even if it hurts."
Speaking in support of his party's candidate John O'Farrell, Mr Miliband said Labour would reintroduce a 10p tax rate paid for by a "mansion tax."The most recent national polling shows Cameron in even worse shape than U.S. Republicans, and for many of the same reasons. Labour now has a stunning 14 point lead over the Conservatives. If the elections were held today, Labour would score 41%, the Conservatives would come in with 29% and their partners the Lib-Dems would get 13%. The neo-fascist UKIP has taken some of the anti-gay bigots away from the Conservatives and are polling 9%. If they do better than expected today and even manage to edge the Conservatives out of second place, as the bookmakers are predicting today, it will be looked at as a disaster for Cameron personally. Polls close at 10pm tonight (GMT).
...Labour wants a mansion tax on £2m properties and for the proceeds of the levy to be used to re-introduce a 10p rate of tax.
Mr Miliband said: "The people of Eastleigh know that John O'Farrell, if elected on 28 February, will... represent change. They know he'll fight the government.
"They know he'll support a mansion tax and the return of the 10p tax rate.
"They know that the choice they face on 28 February is between two candidates from the government and a One Nation Labour candidate in John O' Farrell who, if elected, will support real change."
But a Downing Street spokesman called the mansion tax a "stunning admission of economic incompetence."
"The losers from Labour's 10p tax fiasco have become winners under this government," he added.
UPDATE: Cameron The Big Loser
As expected the Lib-Dems won (13,342 votes) and the Conservatives didn't beat them despite the horrible news for the LibDems all month. Instead the Conservatives came in third (10,559) behind the anti-Bulgarian party, UKIP (11,571). Labour did about what was expected in this very primitivist southern constituency (4,088 votes).