Friday, 29 March 2013

South Shields is not Eastleigh

The resignation of David Miliband as an MP means there will be a by-election in his South Shields constituency. But this will not be another famous Liberal Democrat victory, more a case of damage limitation.

Liberator has looked up the South Shields result in the 2010 general election so you don’t have to:
52.0% Labour
21.6% Conservative
14.2% Liberal Democrat
6.5% BNP
2.1% Green
3.6% Others
Labour majority 11,109
Turnout 57.7%
In short, it is a safe Labour seat and Labour will hold it. A Labour hold will not be an achievement. A Labour hold will not be news. There will be more interest in the performance of the other parties.

Liberal Democrat prospects are not good. The party’s vote in 2010 had fallen by 5% since the previous general election in 2005 and, on present form, may fall still further, with the risk of a lost deposit. There is no local government base and not a single Liberal Democrat councillor in the constituency; South Shields is in the Labour-dominated metropolitan borough of South Tyneside, which has 48 Labour councillors, 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP and 4 independents. The by-election will almost certainly be held on the same day as the local elections on 2nd May. For all these reasons, the Liberal Democrat campaign will not attract thousands of volunteers as in Eastleigh; instead, the party is more likely to play the whole thing down as it did in Barnsley Central and Rotherham.

The more observant among you may have noticed there was no UKIP candidate in 2010. That won’t be the case in this by-election. Indeed, the bookies reckon UKIP will come second, as it did in Eastleigh. This is not so much because of Eastleigh but because, once Tory voters realise the Tories have no hope of winning, they will feel safe in switching to UKIP as a protest vote.

The perception that a Labour victory is certain will, of course, have another consequence. The turnout will be abysmal.

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