— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) February 21, 2013
The aim should be to punish Cameron next Thursday
It’s been easy for Labour supporters and MPs to focus all their fire on Liberal Democrats these last few years. There was a time when many believed the Coalition would not last the distance and that dumping on the Liberal Democrats was key to breaking it up and triggering an early election (fixed term act apart). Over half way into the parliament this looks a remote prospect. Despite the huge loss of councillors the yellows have taken there is no rebellion of sorts internally. Instead many leftish members have simply resigned from the party rather than stay and put up a fight.
What Labour also failed to do was recognise that many seasoned Liberal Democrat MPs were quite circumspect about their prospects at the next election. Many had never expected to be holding ministerial office. Sure they want to keep their seats and will be tenacious about it, but many remember the real low points where the party was polling even lower than today and the number of MPs could fit in a minibus. This inner calm is not something that many of the party’s opponents had factored for.
There is no queue to ditch Nick Clegg and with the loss of Chris Huhne his position appears strong. If Clegg isn’t Lib Dem leader at the next election it will almost certainly now be his own personal choice.
As a result, now more than ever, Labour’s real focus must be on David Cameron and George Osborne. Osborne’s omnishambolic budget last year brought Labour back in the game.
- David Cameron on the other hand remains more liked than his party and remains the Conservative’s biggest asset.
For Ed Miliband to get into 10 Downing Street he will have to climb over David Cameron’s body. Labour needs to recognise that there’s no easy alternative route. Which brings us to Eastleigh.
David Cameron has made several prominent trips to Eastleigh and fully endorsed the candidate there whose views will be at complete odds with many centre-left voters. The Conservative Party has known for months and months that Eastleigh was a by-election waiting to happen. Maria Hutchings is David Cameron’s candidate. Should the Conservatives lose their target seat of Eastleigh then the fallout could be significant and take many forms.
‘Cameroon’ modernisers may well brief against their candidate, traditional Conservatives may respond and take the view that the blame lies with the Prime Minister himself and others point the finger at the Coalition with Liberal Democrats. The blame game could ricochet for some time would be damaging for Conservative party and Coalition unity. It could even begin this weekend. A defeat for David Cameron in Eastleigh would force Conservative MPs to accept the fact that Cameron is not likely to win a majority for them in 2015. With so many having backed him in 2005 on the grounds that he appeared a winner, his value comepletely evaporates then. He is merely a holder of office. As the Conservatives eventually showed with Margaret Thatcher proved that is not guarantee of loyalty.
I for one and pleased Labour have made a good fist of the campaign and given the by-election the respect it deserves. They needed to. But the bookmakers’ odds have the party’s chances of success at 40/1. It is a seat not even remotely on any Labour target list. The red team’s odds have drifted not shortened.
- Should Labour supporters conclude their man cannot win then they would be wise to consider how they can do the most damage to the Conservative leader. And vote accordingly.