By-election biased reporting – what Eastleigh result really says

Woke this morning to the news that the Lib Dems had managed – barely – to hold onto Eastleigh, and that the Tories had come 3rd after UKIP, with Labour a distant 4th.

Commentators seem unable to resist saying that the result is a ‘concern’ for Labour, even though Labour’s vote actually went up. The truth is, Labour were never seriously in the running for a seat that is dominated at a council level (to the degree of 100%) by the LibDems. The people of Eastleigh just aren’t Labour voters (for which they have my sympathies) – even in the 1997 New Labour landslide the seat remained LibDem.

Where the massive concern should be is for the Tories and the LibDems. The Tories lost to the party formed from their former ‘lunatic fringe’ (or rather, from one of the fringes!) after only barely losing to the LibDems in the last election.

The headlines say the LibDem’s vote was down by 14 points – but this means that they actually got around 34% fewer votes than in 2010. Their collusion with the Tories and their failure to resist the many heinous measures the Tories have voted through have cost them dear even in a LibDem heartland. And rightly so.

And UKIP? Well, it appears from what I’m hearing that immigration was a key doorstep issue – and UKIP have no shame about playing to people’s lowest instincts, so it’s not much of a surprise that they were able to eat the Tory vote to a large degree.


  1. When pressed this morning on BBC news, on being a one issue party and question on non immigration issues, everything pointed back to immigration. One Direction not picking up Best Group Brit Award, immigrations fault. Second series of Heroes, fault of the Poles. Floods, Pestilence, War and Famine. Bloody Bulgarians.

  2. ” – and UKIP have no shame about playing to people’s lowest instincts,”

    Yep. That’s “biased reporting” all right. Good title.

    1. I’ve been on the ground when UKIP were fighting a by-election last autumn, so speak from experience. UKIP’s campaign leaflets were bordering on fascist & racist.

  3. Is it time for a British Unite the Right movement, and also a merger between the Conservatives and UKIP? Because if this result is replicated across the UK in 2015 there could be a majority of votes cast for right wing parties but a massive left wing, Europhile majority in Westminster after the next general election.

    1. No, in short. UKIP vote is a fringe in most places, and Farage despises Cameron and loves the limelight for himself too much to share it. There was not a right-wing majority in 2010, so after 5 years of menace, plunder and blunder from the Tories there is no chance of one in 2015 – thank goodness.

  4. A bit of wishful thinking here I’m afraid.

    The truth is, Labour were never seriously in the running for a seat

    That is what should be a concern. Labour started off as the highest-placed non-government party. Why didn’t they have a serious go at trying to win?

    Here’s an interesting fact. UKIP increased their vote by 24.2 percentage points. If, instead, Labour had increased their vote by 24.2 points, they would have won the seat with 33.8% ahead of the Lib Dems on 32.1%.

    Labour could have won, but it seems that they chose to play games by encouraging tactical voting for one government party against another. With Labour not interested in their vote, those opposed to the government were left to vote for a party of the right. That’s a strategic defeat.

    The people of Eastleigh just aren’t Labour voters

    Even in the disastrous election of 1983, Labour managed 18.5% in Eastleigh and yet they could barely manage half of that in a by-election where the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Tories. You could hardly hope for better circumstances, but Labour made nothing of it.

    The headlines say the LibDem’s vote was down by 14 points – but this means that they actually got around 34% fewer votes than in 2010

    A reduction of 14 points on their GE2010 vote puts the Lib Dems on 10% nationally, broadly in line with their current opinion poll rating. However, government parties tend to do worse in by-elections than in the general elections that follow – so this suggests that the Lib Dems will out-perform their opinion poll score.

    If you take the proportional decrease and apply it to their nationwide score, it would give the Lib Dems 16% at the next general election. They haven’t scored 16% in an opinion poll since an ICM poll in January 2012. I don’t think they’d consider that a disaster.UKIP have no shame about playing to people’s lowest instinctsNearly 7,500 more people voted for UKIP than for Labour. Nearly three times as many people.

    Labour was either unable, or unwilling to try, to win the political argument for people to vote Labour in preference to UKIP in Eastleigh and you should find that deeply worrying, given that it makes two in a row after Rotherham. Will you take any notice if UKIP make it three in a row with the next by-election? And then there’s the debacle in Bradford West…

    Labour’s performance in by-elections has been distinctly underwhelming this Parliament, and it points to Labour failing to win a majority at the next election.

    1. Your maths is way off, I’m afraid. If Labour had increased their vote by 24%, they’d still have been in 4th place – and still 6,952 votes behind the winner. That’s why the seat was never a serious concern for Labour – some places just don’t have the sense to vote for them.

      As for UKIP’s vote being nearly 3x that of Labour, there is never a shortage of people who crave simplistic policies and a bit of foreigner-blaming. UKIP’s readiness to aim low will always appeal to some.

      As for Rotherham – well, Labour won that and UKIP did well by eating the BNP vote and some of the Tory share. Hardly a worry to Labour in S Yorks, but a significant cause for concern to the Conservatives.

      1. That is a bit desperate. I didn’t say 24%, I said 24.2 points ie clearly by the margin that UKIP increased their vote.

        Labour could have won, but instead they were irrelevant. The opposition should never by irrelevant in a by-election.

        The voters aren’t happy about the Coalition, but they don’t see Labour as the answer. Does that not make you worry about the result of the next general election?

      2. You said ‘percentage points’, but fair enough. UKIP did that by appealing to base instincts – I’m glad Labour didn’t, and wouldn’t, do that.

        And no, I’m not worried. I believe Labour should be more radical in what it says and that it will benefit from doing so. But even so, things are on track and people are seeing through the government – and not many, in most place, will fall for UKIP’s cheap nonsense.

      3. Btw, I just saw that UKIP’s campaign in Eastleigh used a leaflet: ‘”3 million Bulgarians are on their way to Eastleigh”. There are only 7.5 million in the whole of Bulgaria, and if half of them came to the UK, they wouldn’t all go to Eastleigh.

        Couldn’t be a better example of what I mean by ‘appealing to base instincts’. Anyone supporting UKIP needs their head looking at – and to hang it in shame.

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