Your essential Eastleigh weekend reader — my pick of the must-reads

Papers - Some rights reserved by NS MewsflashIt’s Sunday afternoon, so here are a dozen thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking as you unwind after the turmoil and excitement of the past 7 days. For a change, this week’s collection is devoted to just one topic: the Eastleigh by-election (to be honest, I’ve not had time to read about much else!)…

Eastleigh By-Election: Worst of All Worlds for the Tories – Tim Bale has few words of comfort for the Tories: ‘Having run the economy into the ground, risked their already shaky reputation on the NHS, gone for gay marriage at the same time as seeming to beat up on a range of other minorities by pursuing the politics of us and them, and upped the ante impossibly on Europe, the Tories are now in the worst of all worlds.’

10 things we’ve learned from the Eastleigh byelection – Andrew Sparrow‘s essential list: ‘1. The Liberal Democrats are more resilient than generally assumed and are not doomed to inevitable electoral wipeout at the general election.’

Eastleigh by-election: Dave’s problem isn’t finishing behind Ukip, it’s how his party will react to finishing behind Ukip – Dan Hodges offers advice to the main parties: ‘as the party found in 2010, and Labour found for the best part of 20 years, you don’t win elections by appealing to your core voters. You win them by reaching out to the electorate at large.’

Lib Dems win in Eastleigh – Peter Kellner with some harsh, and fair-ish, analysis of the Lib Dem position: ‘Overall, the Lib Dems’ performance was not one that proves they can fend off the Tories in LD-Con contests around England at the next general election – or even that they can retain Eastleigh in 2015.’

The real lesson of Eastleigh is that the Tory grassroots are dying. Here’s how we should revive them. – Tory MP Conor Burns, who fought and lost Eastleigh twice, reflects on why: ‘knowing what I knew before the by-election and finding that almost no one raised Huhne as the reason for the by-election on the door step I was not very surprised at the outcome.’

Eastleigh by-election: Four points from Ashcroft’s exit poll – Jonathan Jones assesses the data: ‘Ukip is a protest vote. 83 per cent of those who voted Ukip said they did so to ‘send a message’ to the party they usually support, and 75 per cent said they did so ‘as a general protest’ against all the main parties.’

‘We called quite a few dead people’: How the Tories’ lack of data let them down in Eastleigh – Rupert Myers notes: ‘One of the practical reasons the Conservatives lost was a lack of data: banks of volunteers young and old spent hours on the phone and walking the streets pestering postal voters who’d already sent off their votes and we’d failed to record this fact.’

Lesson from Eastleigh – Tory agent Andrew Kennedy reflects on the party’s burising defeat: ‘The lesson from Eastleigh is this is what happens when a political party loses its membership, loses its branches, loses its district, county and parish councillors and ultimately loses its roots and understanding of the community it is there to represent.’

After Eastleigh, the Tories need to end their UKIP tribute act – Rafael Behr on the stark truth for Labour: ‘Miliband sincerely sees himself as the architect of a radical alternative to the coalition; in Eastleigh, Labour is plainly still seen as just another haggard old party.’

As ever, Tony Blair is David Cameron’s guide – John Rentoul thinks the Tory leader will ignore his right-wing: ‘When Cameron says he will fight on the “common ground”, he means he will do the brave and right thing of ignoring the foolish advice to be “more Tory”.’

The Tories should now know you don’t beat Ukip by copying them – Andrew Rawnsley highlights one of the most important discoveries at Eastleigh: ‘Forecasts of the death of tactical voting have proved exaggerated. Where their party is not in the fight, natural Labour voters are still willing to choose “the lesser evil” and lend a vote to the Lib Dems to keep out the Tories.’

The Eastleigh delusion – the Economist’s Blighty blog recalls a warning from recent history: ‘[in 2005] the Conservative Party ran an UKIPish campaign under the slogan “are you thinking what we’re thinking?” Back then the answer from electorally-decisive voters was: “err, no”. The same, it seems, was true in Eastleigh.’

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • paul barker 3rd Mar '13 - 5:11pm

    OK, Kellner repeating the nonsense that Libdem performance was in line with national polling, it was but Labours wasnt or they would hve got 22%. The Tories werent in line with their polling, neither were UKIP.
    So, of the four competing parties “The Polls” got one right; that looks like coincidence to me. You could just as easily explain the fall in our vote by the increased competition – a 3 horse race instead of the 2 at a general election.

  • Paul Barker, I am sure I have seen or heard Kellner maintain that a high proportion of the 14% has slipped to Labour, but it did not in Eastleigh. He really cannot make any claim for one half of the equation when the other half is wrong.

    Doubtless there are constituencies where voters may feel that Lib Dems have no chance of unseating a Tory and that they would be better off recording a (futile) pro Labour vote, but this shows that where there is a risk of getting a Tory MP and a good chance of getting a Lib Dem, tactical voting continues to thrive.

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