Generally speaking, a mid-term by-election is normally a good barometer of how the incumbent government is managing the economy and running the country as a whole. But what are the political commentators going to make of this week’s vote in Eastleigh?
The constituency is in a part of England in which prospective Labour candidates are just as likely to be seen off by the dogs as gain a vote, which explains why their man John O’Farrell, a TV script writer, broadcaster and author, is unlikely to be forecasting a happy ending and is 100/1 with bet365, Stan James and Betfred to emerge victorious. I’m not sure I’m legally obliged to mention all of the other apparent no-hopers and fruitcakes bidding to be the Hampshire town’s next MP but, for the sake of fairness, here goes.
Colin Bex stands for the Wessex Regionalists, David Bishop runs under the name of the ‘Elvis Loves Pets Party’ then there is pacifist Jim Duggan. Ray Hall is all for Beer, Baccy and Crumpet while the Monster Raving Loonies have put forward Alan Hope aka Howling Laud Hope. Dr Iain MacLennan, standing for the National Health Action party, at least has a serious message to get across while Kevin Milburn of the Christian Party ‘Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship’ will be hoping for the moral vote. Darren Procter (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition), Michael Walters (English Democrats) and Independent Danny Stupple make up the numbers but none of the above will be in Westminster any time soon, unless they are on a day trip.
The problem is that the two most likely are Maria Hutchings (Conservatives) and Mike Thornton (Liberal Democrat), who is defending the seat vacated by the disgraced Chris Huhne. Now if stepping into the shoes of a self-confessed liar, adulterer and fine dodger wasn’t bad enough, Mr Thornton’s campaign has also been tainted by the right royal mess his party leadership has got into over Lord Rennard. The Lib Dems’ former chief executive is facing allegations of sexual impropriety against several women but party leader Nick Clegg has refused to condemn his actions at this time – and been receiving plenty of flak. That could easily affect the vote for Thornton, who is out to 1/2 with Ladbrokes to become Eastleigh’s MP having looked an absolute certainty a week ago. Tory Hutchings was second to Huhne in 2010 but only has 4,000 votes to find. However, her party is proving to be more soundbite than substance in government and she can be backed at a general 5/2 to go one better this year. The coalition, in general, seems to stutter from one u-turn to another and you’d imagine that could just let UKIP in the back door. They don’t have representation in parliament and their candidate Dianne James won’t be helped by the fact that she’s not a local – I wouldn’t be rushing to back her at 8/1 with William Hill.