Eastleigh’s Labour Party officially launched their election campaign this weekend and a good number of local activists turned out to support candidate Mark Latham.
Also helping out was Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, who will be retiring from Parliament on March 30.
Labour’s Leigh Road office has had an election facelift with new display sinage featuring Mark Latham himself.
Morale seems high and local party workers say they are confident they canbuild on their performance in the by-election when they managed to increase their share of the vote while the Lib Dems saw their share go down – despite winning – as did the Conservatives.
After posing for a group shot Denham joined Latham and a group activists to canvass local householders.
Being a Saturday lunchtime not many people were in – turnouts for elections in Eastleigh Central ward are low and this probably reflects the high percentage of tenants which makes for a transient population who see little point in voting.
Reactions from those who came to the door were mixed some said they supported Labour – one man was Polish and said he couldn’t vote while another said he wouldn’t because he was a Jehovah’s Witness:
“But thank you for knocking on my door”.
One woman told an activist “I don’t vote Labour because Labour can’t win here” echoing a familiar refrain of Liberal Democrat newsletters.
While it’s true that Labour have never won the constituency they have previously held seats on the council that were subsequently lost to the Lib Dems but have also come close to winning some back.
In past campaigns the Lib Dems have successfully squeezed the Labour vote by telling Labour supporters ‘Labour can’t win here’ and by insisting that elections were a two horse race between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.
Labour supporters were advised to vote Lib Dem “to keep the Torys out”.
But Mark Latham told me that the Lib Dem vote was collapsing nationally and that the “two-horse-race” was between Labour and Conservatives.
He said he believed that voters were influenced by opinion polls and that Labour voters who may have voted Lib Dem tactically in the past were coming back to Labour to “make sure the Conservatives don’t take Eastleigh”.
In what could be one of his last media press interviews as an MP I asked John Denham what he made of David Cameron’s apparent reluctance to meet Ed Milliband in a TV debate.
On Friday the Business minister Matthew Hancock had defended the Conservative record in government and said David Cameron debated Ed Milliband every week in the House of Commons but John Denham said:
“Parliament finishes in two or three weeks time, David Cameron is going to spend the whole election campaign running scared of Ed Milliband”