By Harry Phibbs
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The Labour Party only got 9.6% of the vote in the Eastleigh constituency at the last General Election. It was a very bad result for them not just in absolute but also in relative terms. Their vote share was less than half what they achieved in 2005. Nationally they went down sharply as well, of course. But from 37% to 29%.
No doubt many Labour supporters in Eastleigh voted tactically for the Lib Dem candidate Chris Huhne – in 2010 far more than in 2005 for some reason.
Yet in this byelection Labour seem to be fighting a strong campaign. They have put up a minor celebrity as their candidate, the comedian John O'Farrell. This well help enthuse their activists to come and campaign and is ensuring that the media don't ignore them. Ed Miliband was campaigning in Eastleigh this morning.
Normally we would expect to see a byelection producing more tactical voting due to the volume of campaigning. Ths means the constituents becoming unavoidably well versed in the local psephology, even in the midst of the barrage of claim and coounterclaim and dodgy Lib Dem bar charts.
Yet the battle hardened Lib Dem byelection operatives will face a challenge as they stand in the cold on the doorsteps pleading for tactical votes from the Socialists. Not just due to the coalition with the Conservatives. But also because have as their base 2005 when they evidently squeezed the Labour vote so effectively.
Then there is UKIP. Conservative canvassers will probably let slip to those planning to support UKIP than the Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings favours the withdrawal of oour country from EU membership. That might then add that the Lib Dems favour handing over yet more power to the EU. Then they might gently suggest that a UKIP victory unlikely and that therefore the most effective course for those wishing to recover our status as a self governing nation would be to vote for Maria. Lord Ashcroft's poll had UKIP on 13% – will the Conservatives be able to squeeze it down? If straight talking Maria Hutchings can't win over a good chunk of them then I'm not sure which candidates could.
What other forms of tactical voting could we see in 2015? Even if cosy Lab/Lib Dem arrangement breaks down it doesn't mean that there won't be new opportunities for new varities of this electoral sport.
Some Lib Dems in Lab/Con marginals might decide to support the Conservatives. They might feel a desire to continue with the coalitio government and that thwarting Labour in their seat was the most effective course to take.
There are also plenty of Lib Dem seats with Labour in second place. In 2010 the Lib Des made several gains from Labour – Bradford East, Brent Central, Burnley, Norwich South, Redcar…They already have several otther seats where Labour were in second place – Birmingham Yardley, Cardiff Central, Manchester Withington, Bermondsey and Old Southwark. These are the sort of seats Labour need to gain to win an overall majority. Will some Tory voters in these constituencies "lend" their votes to the Lib Dems?