I don’t know if “looking forward” is the way to describe how I’m feeling about the Eastleigh by-election, but it promises to be one of the most interesting by-elections to have been announced in a while – especially given the circumstances that led to the seat becoming vacant.
So who will win this seat? UKIP thinks that it has a real chance but I’m not so sure. Last time they came in fourth behind Labour and polled 1,933 votes. While Labour’s man won just over 5,000. Labour has never won this seat nor has it done particularly well here either. Eastleigh usually goes to the Tories and was won by the Lib Dem’s David Chidgey in 1994, following the mysterious death of Stephen Milligan (whose brother, Brian, works for the BBC). The Lib Dem victory happened at the height of the sleaze allegations that dogged John Major’s Tories. Now the Lib Dems are in government with the Tories, I can’t see how they can win this election. Moreover, I suspect the Tories will have a tough time here too.
My eyes have been drawn to the new National Health Action Party whose main campaign pledge is to work to save the NHS. There is a precedent for this: Dr Richard Taylor fought under the banner of Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern and won the Wyre Forest seat from Labour minister, David Lock. Given the depth of feeling over the NHS and in the wake of the Mid Staffs NHS trust scandal, the NHA Party could steal this seat from under the nose of the established parties. Labour is going to have a tough time.
The Labour candidate is the author and broadcaster, John O’Farrell. It’s pretty obvious that the party has selected a candidate based solely on personality rather than ideology. He also wrote jokes for Blair and Brown… make of that what you will. Now that may be applauded in some circles but, personally, I think it could backfire.
According to Ladbrokes, the NHA Party is 100/1 and they have the Lib Dems as 8/11 favourites.
Place your bets!