While the Tories are taking a public beating for their performance in Eastleigh, Labour also have little to be proud of. Despite the party currently floating around 11 points ahead of the Tories in the national polls, they only managed to add 0.2 points to their 2010 general election result and came in fourth place. Their candidate John O’Farrell blames voters being anti-politics, not anti-Labour.
Either way, the result is disappointing for Ed Miliband. Although it was unlikely Labour would ever take the seat, the party still threw its weight behind a full campaign. Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling suggests Labour were putting in similar effort to the main contenders. 89 per cent of residents stated they had received leaflets from Labour, compared to 96 per cent for the Lib Dems and 95 per cent for the Tories. 37 per cent said Labour had knocked on their door, compared to 54 per cent for the Lib Dems and 45 per cent for the Tories. Dan Hodges provides some excellent insight into the quandaries Labour faced as to whether they should campaign hard or not.
It was not impossible for Labour to have done better than 9.6 per cent of the vote. As Isabel explained last night, Labour pushed hard and came second in the 1994 Eastleigh by-election with 28 per cent of the vote. Although that election was fought on different boundaries, it confirms the area is not an entirely a write off for Labour. Especially for a party which has said there should be no no-go areas.
Eastleigh has brought home a hard truth for Miliband — he can not rely on a collapsed Lib Dem vote to bring him a majority. As Lord Ashcroft’s polling today confirms, the left-of-centre voters Miliband was counting on to flip back to Labour are instead still tactically voting Lib Dem to keep the Tories out. Just 14 per cent of those who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 switched to Labour yesterday.
The result confirms much of what I wrote earlier in the week about the problems with Miliband’s southern strategy. His promise of a One Nation message still needs more substance to convince alienated voters they can trust Labour again. It’s now clear Miliband will have to up his game if he has any hope of convincing anti-Tory voters to return.Tags: Eastleigh by-election 2013, Ed Miliband, Labour, UK politics