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Could Cheadle give Charles Kennedy a headache?

June 30th, 2005

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    Do the Tories stand any chance of wininng?

The mood amongst Liberal Democrats at the PB.C party at the weekend was that defending the Cheadle by-election a fortnight today might be a tougher challenge than the current Betfair price might suggest. There are a number of issues:-

Will Labour supporters switch?
With a Lib Dem majority in 2001 of just 33 votes Cheadle was right at the top of the Tory hit list and this put the squeeze on Labour which saw its share drop from 14% four years ago to 8.8% on May 5th. Will these voters do the same again? A factor is that there’s no love lost between party activists in that part of South Manchester after Lib Dems took neighbouring Withington in a bitter contest in May.

What does South Staffs say about Tory turnout? Any Lib Dem hope that Tories might be less keen to turn out because of the ructions over the party leadership was knocked on the head by their increased majority and vote share in last week’s South Staffordshire ballot. Also the underlying figures in the opinion polls show that the Tory vote nationally is holding up – something that did not happen after the 1997 and 2001 landslides.

Will UKIP’s withdrawal from the race have an impact? Although the anti-EU party got less than 500 votes on May 5th UKIP had the potential to eat into the Tory vote at the by-election. They won’t be standing and if the vote’s tight then where the UKIP hundreds go could be crucial.

Will the postal voters turnout? Almost all the 8,000+ electors who applied for postal votes will still be on the list and in a by-election situation the parties will do more than they did on May 5th to ensure that these electors vote. At the General Election there was a marked reluctance in the post-Birmingham context to get involved after the postal ballots had arrived. Many of the 8,000 were secured through the Tory pre-election direct marketing campaign.

Although it’s hard to see the Lib Dems being beaten the current price of 2/15 offers no value.

Mike Smithson






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