Friday, 22 February 2013

Leigh East to Eastleigh

The Grant Shapps Pixie
The last time I was in Eastleigh I was on business doing some work for the audit commission. This was my latest client until its doom was signaled by the Government in the great bonfire of the quango's. Then Chris Huhne became the latest Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds and Eastleigh beckoned again. I went down the Eastleigh to play my small part in the campaign. Any news coverage concerning Eastleigh had an obvious focus on the fever pitch electioneering and this was the image I had in my head. Driving into the town there was no doubt an election was going on, huge signs for Lib Dems and the Conservatives lined the road into town. What struck me after then was just how little the local population cared that there was an election going on even one as hotly contested as this. The main focus for the vast majority was shopping, eating, just about anything except politics. To them, the election is something which is happening on the 28th Feb and until then, not interested and why should they be, getting on with life is much more important. This confirmed what I have always known, that politics is not a mass participation sport. Canvassing and campaigning over the years confirmed to me that people vote mainly out of habit, then on issues and lastly on conviction. It's only the political classes who take a deep interest in party politics. This also means there is everything to play for in Eastleigh. The voting by habit proportion I put at roughly 50/50 so the campaign needs to be about trying to break the habit amongst a very small number of voters. It's nigh on impossible to identify who would break the habit so the saturation approach needs to be taken and the Tories are taking that exact approach. When I was leafleting in Eastleigh at the weekend a good many houses had Conservative leaflets already by the door and when I was telephone canvassing a good many had not yet made up their mind (or at least that's what they told me). I'm confident the campaigning will work, not because I'm a dyed in the wool Tory but because this is exactly the approach I adopt in Leigh East, a very safe Labour seat in Wigan Borough. Saturation campaigning has lifted the Conservative vote in Leigh from about 10% to almost 30%. If the same campaigning technique I've witnessed in Eastleigh creates a similar shift then the seat is a dead cert.

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