The press have been working hard to undermine the Liberal Democrats in the run up to the by-election, but the anti-Tory feeling is running high. The electorate seems to have turned against the government and their divisive and failing economic policies and it may well be that despite a massive amount of money being pumped into Eastleigh by the Tories, they will lose the by-election in what looks like a natural constituency for them.
UKIP look set to do very well indeed and may push Labour out of 3rd place (which will, of course, become the story of the day).
Labour may suffer a squeeze as a consequence of the anti-Tory vote flocking to the UKIP, but I##Q##m hopeful that the party will increase its share of the vote from 9.6% to 15% or more. That could have consequences for the Liberals and they could fall short of a winning vote – in fact polls suggest that the Tories are close with Lord Ashcroft##Q##s poll showing it as nip and tuck:
- Lib Dems 33% (down from 46.5%)
- Tory 28% (down from 39.3%)
- UKIP 21% (up from 3.6%)
- Labour 12% (up from 9.6%)
- Other 6%
The pre-election focus on Clegg##Q##s ever changing position about whether did or did not know about his touchy feely party official, with the BBC emphasising that he##Q##s "changed his story" several times, will bring a lot of voters to mistrust the party. Also given the reason for the by-election and the natural conservative nature of Eastleigh, you would have expected the Tories to make hay, but they are only just hanging in there and may see their proportion of the vote fall substantially with UKIP being the main beneficiaries.
Undoubtedly, the media want Clegg to lose. They also want Labour to suffer a reverse by falling to 4th place. UKIP are the media darlings at the moment and seem to be the main recipients of the British love of a protest vote. These are the headlines I##Q##m expecting.
Personally, I will draw comfort from an increased Labour vote and a decrease in the Tory and Liberal vote. I will not be happy with the neo-Nazi UKIP pulling in the votes from a discontented, but confused, electorate.