Friends and Comrades,
I am writing to you as a fellow Labour Party member, though one who is just an observer of the byelection caused by Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne’s resignation. Though Labour’s campaign in Eastleigh is entirely your own affair, I would like to give my advice regarding it.
Your Hampshire constituency has a reputation for being an affluent, leafy part of the world, the sort that one would expect to be a Conservative safe seat. At the 2010 general election, Chris Huhne won a slender majority over the Conservative candidate, with yours in a distant third place. Your share of the vote was in fact quite high given the demographics of your area and the use of tactical voting along the ABC- Anything But Conservative- system. And despite the treachery of the Liberal Democrats in Coalition, pollsters still say that some your supporters will vote Tory-lite in fear of something worse.
If Labour achieved the swing nationwide that they’d require in Eastleigh, they’d win an unprecedented majority of 330+ MPs. I appreciate that you must fight under the Labour banner regardless of the odds of your winning this time, but failure to maximise the chances of ousting the Coalition candidates would be a tragic waste of an opportunity.
That is why I ask you to discuss with the Green Party, any Independent candidates and National Health Action the possibility of collectively withdrawing your candidates in favour of a united anti-Government candidate. This could come from inside or outside the parties. If you recall, Martin Bell overturned a formidable Tory majority in the 1990s as an Independent backed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. There is the potential to turn Eastleigh into a real three-way race. This is a once in a generation chance to introduce leftwing representatives to Eastleigh for the first time in a while, and cause maximum upset to the Coalition parties whilst doing so.
You might point out that you have a wealth of talented people seeking your endorsement. That is absolutely true. But sadly, the prospects of them winning from a 13% poll rating are incredibly slim anyway. John O’Farrell, the prolific author (of whom I am a big fan), might provide a superficial increase in your chances were he selected, but claims that he could transform the race may be exaggerated. If popular satirists could gain that much of an electoral advantage, Rory Bremner would be the Prime Minister.
However, I wish you the best of luck regardless of whether you work with others or decide to go it alone. We shall have to work hard over the next two and a half weeks, but we can be confident in the value of a good Labour result.
Jack H G Darant