The winner of an award for young journalists has spoken to the Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP campaigns in the city, and his findings are reported in today’s Observer under the headline: “Ukip ‘too disorganised’ to cash in on Brexit anger in Stoke election”.
Chris Lovell, the LibDem campaign manager is quoted as saying that “Ukip aren’t going to win it, I can be definite on that”. (In the next paragraph, he says, “I’d be relatively confident that Ukip aren’t going to win”, which is not at all the same thing.)
At any rate, Lovell’s main point is that UKIP’s ground game is no good, that the LibDems can unify the Remain vote in their column while the Leave vote is split, and that voters of Kashmiri origin will rally behind the party’s Pakistan-origin cardiologist candidate.
Meanwhile, Labour suggests that anyone mulling supporting the LibDems should instead “use their vote wisely”, and UKIP says that many Conservative voters are resistant to lending their backing to the purple party. There is apparently a “hard core of local support [that is] proving difficult to woo”.
Lovell’s prediction is one of those that are either inspired or just way out. But it may be worth highlighting on a weekend that precedes a Commons recess week, follows last week’s passing of the Article 50 Bill through the House, and leaves a news gap in the Sunday papers which Downing Street seems to have made no effort to fill.
One further point: ConservativeHome has spoken to a lot of Conservative MPs and others, and they are almost unanimous in saying that the Party is not investing as much manpower in Stoke-on-Trent Central as it is in Copeland.
A cynical view would be that a Labour win in the former might help to keep Jeremy Corbyn in place at a troubled time for him; another is that a UKIP victory would cause chaos with the Opposition. We hope that Downing Street and CCHQ are taking neither.