Labour set for a landslide victory in Corby by-election

A new poll gives Ed Miliband's party a 22-point lead in Louise Mensch's former constituency.

When I suggested, following Louise Mensch's resignation, that Labour would walk to victory in the Corby by-election, the party's deputy chair Tom Watson cast doubt on my prediction, insisting that "Corby will be a very tough fight".

But Watson needn't have managed expectations. With just over three weeks to go until polling day on 15 November, Lord Ashcroft's second poll of voters in the constituency, conducted for ConservativeHome, suggests that Labour is on course for a landslide victory. Since Ashcroft's last survey, the party's lead over the Tories has risen by seven to 22 points, with Labour on 54 per cent (up from 39 per cent at the general election) and the Conservatives on 32 per cent (down from 42 per cent).

As Tim Montgomerie suggests, the poll is notable for demonstrating how a collapse in the Lib Dem vote at the next election could hurt the Tories the most. Support for the party in Corby has plummeted from 15 per cent in 2010 to just five per cent now, with the bulk of Lib Dem supporters defecting to Labour. If this trend is replicated in other seats, Ed Miliband's party can expect to pick up dozens of Con-Lab marginals. While the Tories are in second place in most Lib Dem seats (38 compared to 17 for Labour), they will struggle to make gains if, as expected, the Lib Dems benefit from an incumbency effect (the party's MPs are famed for their constituency work).

But for Labour, the omens are more encouraging. In seats where it is within touching distance of the Tories (and even some where it is not), a collapse in support for the third-placed Lib Dems will likely propel it into first place.

Ed Miliband walks through Hyde Park after addressing TUC members at an anti-austerity rally. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

0800 7318496