Labour’s lead with Opinium/Observer hit 12% tonight- the type of lead that is now becoming common for them. As mid-term slowly changes to the run up to the election campaign, there is no sign of a Tory comeback as yet. It may even be that it is David Cameron who is desperate for the TV debates come March/April 2010- a change from his current attitude.
Yet it seems that some are still clinging to the hope that if Labour’s vote collapses in Eastleigh, their prospects for 2015 are somehow damaged. In actual fact, the appearance of a Labour collapse with the Lib Dem vote holding up or increasing, is actually the Tories’ worst nightmare. The Conservatives are relying on taking advantage of the predicted Liberal Democrat collapse at the next election, as well as defending their own seats, as the only real strategy to them remaining the largest party, or less likely, securing an overall majority. If Labour voters are still prepared to vote tactically, even after the Lib Dems joining the Coalition, then there are huge problems for David Cameron.
Labour would obviously prefer to not finish 4th in Eastleigh- behind UKIP- as seems increasingly likely. However, as @AndyJSajs’ excellent Labour target sheet spreadsheet shows, this is Labour’s 337th target seat. It is not on their radar. In the grand scheme of things, the Labour result in Eastleigh is completely irrelevant to Ed Miliband and Labour. Far more relevant is whether the Lib Dem vote holds up.
If the Conservative party finds solace in a poor Labour performance next Thursday, then their overall strategy may well be as misguided as it has appeared over the last few years. Defeat for them in Eastleigh, coupled with the loss of the UK’s triple A rating, is exactly the kind of start to 2013 that the Conservatives would have been dreading. The clock is ticking as they attempt to turn around their current dire polling situation.