It’s by-election time once more. In just over three weeks, the voters of Wythenshawe and Sale East in Greater Manchester will head to the polls on the 13 February to decide who will replace Paul Goggins, the Labour MP who died suddenly earlier this month.
By-elections are often thought to be a useful barometer of how the country is feeling, but in reality they are mostly fought on hyperlocal issues. This one will no doubt be watched closely given the rapidly approaching Euro elections in May. The Tories and Lib Dems are unlikely to do well in either battles, while Ukip and Labour will be going head-to-head in both instances.
Who’s going to win in W&SE?
Most likely Labour. They’ve held the seat comfortably since it was created in 1997 and none of the other parties have come close to challenging them. In 2010, Goggins won Wythenshawe and Sale East with a 7,000+ majority:
Wythenshawe and Sale 2010 election results:
|Liberal Democrat||Martin Eakins||9,107|
Why are we even discussing Ukip?
In the Eastleigh, South Shields and Middlesbrough by-elections, Ukip rocketed into second place — as well as coming third in Croydon North. By-elections are perfect opportunities for voters to express their frustration with the main political parties, hence why Ukip (who always take a lot protest votes) have been doing well. It’s likely Ukip will come second or third again in W&SE, based on their national opinion polling trends.
Is that why the by-election is being held so swiftly?
A quicker campaign will benefit Labour, providing Ukip limited opportunities to find a decent candidate and build a solid campaigning team. As LabourList’s Mark Ferguson reports, they are wasting no time in finding a candidate. Applications are already closed and the first selection meeting is due to take place tomorrow, with the final decision announced next weekend. Ukip is rumoured to be ignoring the local party and parachuting in a strong candidate.
Who might stand?
The Manchester Evening News has the names of several local Labour activists who are keen to be nominated for the seat. Mike Kane, a former advisor to James Purnell is ‘widely tipped’ while councillors Suzannah Reeves, Rosa Battle, Andrew Western and Mike Amesbury are all in the frame.
Ukip’s Liverpudlian deputy leader Paul Nuttall and staple of Question Time, is rumoured to be standing in the seat — a bold move for one of Ukip’s few high profile figures besides Farage. So far, there are no names circulating from the Lib Dems or Conservatives.
So Ukip has no chance of winning?
Ladbrokes currently has 6/1 odds of Ukip taking the seat, compared to 1/12 for Labour. Even with a lower turn out that comes with by-elections, it looks too big of a mountain to climb. They can still arguably ‘win’ the by-election by increasing their vote share significantly and taking a significant chunk out of the Conservative and Labour. It will also enable Farage to continue the narrative that Ukip are on the up.
In a recent interview, Nigel Farage stated he has ‘several dozen Labour seats in the North and the Midlands in his sights’ for the next general election. A solid result in W&SE would prove he’s on the right strategy.
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