Will Labour do well in the Newark by-election? While all the focus has been on the fight between the Tories and Ukip (watch our exclusive interview with the candidates here), Labour has been mostly forgotten. Yet in this morning’s poll of the seat from The Sun, Labour are on 27 per cent — four points ahead of their result in 2010 and one point ahead of Ukip:
This is a rather good showing for a party with a pretty basic ground operation. During my visit to Newark-on-Trent yesterday, I did not spot a single Labour canvasser in the town centre. Their election HQ was smaller than any of the other parties. I was surprised when entering the offer only to find the candidate Michael Payne, Chris Bryant (who’s running the by-election operation) and two helpers in. Not exactly a powerful fighting machine:
So why is Labour doing so well? Firstly, they’ll be benefiting from the anti-Tory sentiment over the resignation of Patrick Mercer. He resigned under inauspicious circumstances and many voters won’t have forgiven the Tories. Given this, it’s surprising that Ukip aren’t doing better as they are the party of anti-politics. There is also a hangover from the European elections; last week Labour managed to boost its vote share by 8 per cent in East Midlands, which encompasses the seat.
Newark is broadly a rural constituency, the sort place that used to be Tory heartlands — we’ll find out if that’s still the case next Thursday — but there are two strong Labour areas with a different makeup to the rest of the seat. As these two maps show from @election_data show, voters near the centre of Newark-on-Trent and Tuxford in the north west of the seat are receptive or very receptive to Labour:
Labour has not entirely forgotten Newark. Judging by the wall-of-signatures, several members of the shadow cabinet have been on the stump, including Ed Miliband, while Harriet Harman is due to visit over the weekend. By coasting along, Labour can claim if they do badly, there was never really any hope of making an impact. But if they do well without too much effort, it will offer some comfort for Ed Miliband that the Labour vote hasn’t entirely disintegrated outside of their core areas.