How will Ukip play the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election? As a Labour seat with a relatively large majority (Sebastian profiles the constituency here), it’s a perfect location for Nigel Farage’s party to underline its claim that it can steal discontented voters from Labour just as easily as it does from the Tories. Labour is already nervous enough to be testing out special anti-Ukip leaflets arguing Farage is not on the side of the working class.
It might have seemed a natural seat for the party’s Deputy leader Paul Nuttall to stand in. He gave a strong speech at the party’s autumn conference on how the Labour party no longer understood the working classes and that Ukip could find a natural constituency in the North (but had what even party insiders accept was a bad night on Question Time two weeks ago). But I understand that neither he nor Louise Bours, a candidate for the European elections, applied for the shortlist, contrary to rumours that they were being parachuted in. Five of the candidates on the shortlist are local and one is from London. A candidate will be announced on Thursday.
The party’s strategy is to focus on jobs and ‘spook’ Labour into realising how capable Ukip is of eating away at their vote too. A party source says:
‘The message is that we’re taking votes from all, what we’re trying to say is that we can take votes off anybody and the more you worry Labour the better. For us, we need momentum as we’re running up to the euros, so a strong showing will strengthen the perception that we’re doing well.’
As for the Tories, they’re making clear that this is in a Labour heartland and ‘nothing less than a convincing Labour win will do’.