Socialist Worker

Tories lose in Eastleigh as parties race to the right

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2342

The Tories suffered defeat in the Eastleigh by-election. They were beaten into third place by the Liberal Democrats and the far right Ukip.

The Lib Dems held the seat with a reduced majority. The by-election was held after their MP Chris Huhne had to resign and go to jail.

The odious Tory minister Michael Gove for once noticed something when he said the vote was partly driven by a “distaste for elites”. Tory candidate Maria Hutchings made a point of telling voters that she was “not a rich Tory toff”.

The Tories poured resources into the campaign. Hundreds of MPs went to Eastleigh to canvass support. But Tory attempts during the campaign to counter Ukip by echoing their anti-immigration message failed. At one point they went as far as putting out a leaflet in Ukip colours.

Cameron thought he could pull his party ahead pandering to the bigots and racists at every opportunity. His promise of an EU referendum and tough talk on immigration only encouraged the bigots.

So ominously the anti-immigration Ukip increased their share of the vote from 3.6 percent in 2010 to 27.8 percent.


This is a dangerous development which may see anti immigration pushed deep into the heart of the political mainstream.

The Lib Dems won, though their share of the vote dropped 14 percent—only slightly less than the fall for the Tories.

This doesn’t mean that the Lib Dems are safe. In the Rotherham by-election just before Christmas they came eighth.

Labour came fourth with a vote was almost entirely unchanged from the 2010 general election. But instead of drawing the logical conclusion that moving to the right doesn’t help them they look set to draw the opposite conclusion.

Austin Mitchell, a Labour MP, posted on Twitter, “Eastleigh disaster. Labour needs a nationalist appeal. The nation is being betrayed, weakened and sold down river. We should say so”.

The Labour leadership have already said they plan to make yet more announcements about immigration policy next week. They think the best way to get the votes of working class people instead of resisting austerity is to limit immigration.

The government want to push through ever greater cuts and attacks on the welfare state and the living standards of millions of ordinary people. The problem is there is a nasty consensus breaking out in establishment politics.

They all believe that the “issue” of immigration has to be tackled. By that they don’t mean by standing up to racism. They mean either whipping it up or pandering to it.

In contrast, activists are coming together this weekend to stand up against the rise of the far right and to discuss standing up against them. Join them at the Unite the Against Fascism conference this weekend. Go to for details.

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Fri 1 Mar 2013, 14:37 GMT
Issue No. 2342
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