Sunday, 1 May 2011

Labour on course for easy Leicester South win

A Survation poll for the Independent on Sunday shows that Labour's Jonathan Ashworth is set for a comfortable victory in this week's Parliamentary by-election in Leicester South. The contest has slipped under the radar somewhat with the national media attention focussed on the AV Referendum and the Scottish Parliament Elections taking place on the same day, as well as the small matter of a royal wedding. Labour are defending the seat after their MP Sir Peter Soulsby stood down to contest the inaugural Mayoral election in Leicester and they have been considered strong favourites from the off. Here are the headline figures from the poll:

By-Election Candidate



Jonathan Ashworth (LAB)



Jane Hunt (CON)



Zaffur Huq (LD)



Abhijit Pandya (UKIP)



Howling Laud Hope (OMRL)



* Changes from the GE2010 result.

Labour's increase in relation to the 2010 result has largely come at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. This is very much in line with the national polls and the result of the Barnsley Central by-election a couple of months ago. The difference between this contest and Barnsley is that the Liberal Democrats are starting from a stronger position but this poll indicates they will hold on to barely half of their support from last May. The Lib Dems do have more of a presence on the Council in Leicester but with local elections and the AV referendum taking place on the same day they are not able to commit any extra resources to this by-election. This has left Zaffur Huq very much at the mercy of national trends.

An interesting finding in this poll is that the Conservatives appear to be holding on to most of their support from the General Election. Again, this is in line with the current national polling but it would represent a change in fortunes for the Tories compared to recent Westminster by-elections. In the two that have taken place so far this Parliament the Conservatives have seen their vote share fall drastically in both, although almost certainly for different reasons. In Oldham East & Saddleworth their supporters tactically voting for the Liberal Democrat candidate in a failed attempt to prevent Labour from holding the seat and in Barnsley they leaked a lot of votes to UKIP as the anti-EU party attracted protest votes from Tories dissatisfied with the coalition. As the Lib Dems do not have any realistic chance of winning this by-election and UKIP are spread thin because of the other elections taking place the Conservatives are looking good for a comfortable second.

Although UKIP do not look likely to repeat their Barnsley performance in Leicester they may well manage to save their deposit. The absence of a BNP candidate in this by-election when they stood at the General Election is likely to help UKIP achieve the 5% required to get their money back. It is worth noting that news of the UKIP candidate Abhijit Pandya's controversial comments on Islam broke in the middle of the fieldwork and so it's not entirely clear if this will harm them. Of course, it is possible that voters sympathetic to UKIP are less likely to find Pandya's views offensive anyway.

One last thing that is worth looking at going into this by-election is how the vote share's will compare to previous elections in the constituency. As this contest is taking place on the same day as a host of other elections the circumstances are about as normal as you're going to get mid-term. Labour's vote share could be a used as a barometer to measure how far they have recovered from last May's poor election.



2004 b/e















Liberal Democrat






*As the Leicester South constituency was barely altered in the last boundary review the figures are comparable.

If Labour poll above 60% in this by-election it would represent a return to 1997 levels of support here. This would be a nice moral boost for the party if it wasn't overshadowed by their likely loss in the Scottish Parliamentary Election taking place on the same day. Equally, if the Liberal Democrats only manage 14% that would be no lower than they achieved 14 years ago when they won 46 seats nationally. In short, if the Lib Dem vote halves at this by-election it is not compelling evidence on its own to suggest the party is heading for meltdown at the next General Election. Their performance in the English Council elections will provide a much better idea of how well and, more importantly, where the Liberal Democrats can hold on to their seats they are defending.

1 comment:

  1. And as well noting the massive Lib Dem to Lab swing, an 8% swing from Con to Lab should also be noted which could be very interesting if reflected across the East Midlands in general