Tories? Lib Dems? UKIP? Who cares?

Today's by-election will factor majorly for Westminster-obsessed political parties, but does the general public give a monkey's?

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Eastleigh
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The Commentator
On 28 February 2013 10:49

If you've been sleeping under a rock, you might well be forgiven for not knowing that today is polling day in the Eastleigh by-election in Britain. 

The circumstances for such an event transpired after a former cabinet minister and Liberal Democrat party bigwig, Chris Huhne, was forced to stand trial after a series of revelations about his work in perverting the course of justice for a traffic-related offence committed in 2003.

Since the by-election was called of course, many have remarked upon its 'tell-tale' nature in the eyes of the British public. More importantly, the case is often made, the Eastleigh by-election is critical for the Conservative Party Chairman, Grant Shapps, and his plan to return a Conservative majority government in 2015.

Over the past few days, we've heard the clarion calls of UKIP, insisting that the Liberal Democrat seat is in fact a three-horse race. Even some Conservative members of parliament have admitted that if the latest polling reflects reality, the Tories may be chased into third place, giving UKIP yet another feather in its cap when it comes to by-elections.

But by-and-large this vote and its outcome will be scarcely indicative of anything wider. It won't tell us much about the nation's mood for change in 2015, and it will certainly change nothing in Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters, whether the Tories win or lose and to whatever degree.

Some political commentators have argued that if the Tories fail to secure the seat given the scandal around which Chris Huhne was made jobless, then a monumental shift in strategy will be needed. This is neither true, nor will it happen.

The Conservative Party, as ever halfway through an election cycle, will be loath to alter its tactics. Its candidates for the target seats are being chosen right now with a particular mindset. Even its Eastleigh candidate, Maria Hutchings, is far less 'on message' than previous candidates were required to be.

This is in large part due to a loosening of reins around more traditional conservative issues such as Europe, immigration and tackling crime. Tory party strategists are relying on the Chancellor to deliver some level of growth, or even prospective growth, by 2015 - a necessity that Britain's forthcoming budget debate will centre around.

It is with this in mind that for now, by-elections such as Eastleigh cannot be considered as representative, indicative or bellwethers. In fact, the situation surrounding Eastleigh, how the by-election came to pass, and how each party is fighting it is, for now, anomalous.

Oh yes and don't forget that the Labour Party has fielded a candidate too. How cute.

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