Some good poacher-turned-gamekeeper advice from Mike Smithson on how to stop a Lib Dem by-election onslaught can be found on politicalbetting.com today.
The only thing I would take issue with here is that Mike buys into the myth that Hodge Hill was a successful defence on the part of Labour. Actually, Leicester South, called on the same day, was a good Labour defence. The Lib Dems’ victory was widely predicted due to the local party’s already strong presence, yet we only scraped through and handed it back to Labour on a plate a year later. Compare that to the result in Hodge Hill, very much the Blaenau Gwent to Leicester South’s Bromley, where we came within inches despite a campaign from Labour that harked of the bad-old-days of Labour’s Militant Tendency rent-a-mob past.
If we’d won Hodge Hill, and if we’d had a few more days we clearly would have, I’m quite sure that Nicola Davies would have been able to hold onto the seat, just as Sarah Teather managed.
True, in Hartlepool Labour were more effective, but this was for two reasons. Firstly, Labour wisely pulled back from their Hodge Hill excesses, remaining forthright but calling off the rottweillers. This prevented the story from becoming about Labour dirty tricks and rather stymied initiatives such as Comical Tommy (mutter, whinge…). Secondly, the Lib Dems made some bona fide cock ups. The farrago over Jody Dunn’s infamous “angry dog blog” was poorly handled and I personally think we over-played the hospital thing after Labour had already started to rebut it well. We didn’t have another issue and were running out of steam.
So yes, by all means go negative, but be negative on real issues not flim-flam. Whether the Tories like it or not it IS an issue that Bob Neill is dividing his time between the Commons and the GLA; insinuatating that Mark Hunter is a rapist or that Nicola Davies eats babies weren’t.