THE Labour Party is on the verge of its first by-election victory in a Tory-held seat for 15 years as voters in steel town Corby prepare to give their verdict on the coalition government today.
• By-election called after Tory MP Louise Mensch resigned in summer to join her husband in New York
• If Labour win it will be their first by-election victory in a Tory-held seat for 15 years; the last being Wirral South in 1997
• Andy Sawford - son of Phil Sawford - is looking to win the seat back for Labour
Economic uncertainty and chaos in the Tory campaign team, after its manager was taped giving support for an anti-wind farm protester instead of the official Conservative candidate, has made defeat look
almost certain for Prime Minister David Cameron and his party.
Voters across England and Wales will also be electing police commissioners for the first time today in what is set to be a further test for the coalition.
The by-election in Corby was called after author Louise
Mensch, who had been parachuted into the target seat for the 2010 election, resigned over the summer to join her husband in New York.
Ms Mensch had a majority of just 1,951 and had overturned a Labour majority of 1,517, but bookmakers have made Labour 1-100 on to win the seat back.
A recent survey commissioned by the Tory benefactor Lord Ashcroft suggests Labour will poll 54 per cent (up 15 since 2010) and the Tories 32 per cent (down 10). The contest is the first by-election in a Tory or Liberal Democrat seat since the coalition was formed in May 2010.
The Tory campaign is being described as a “shambles” after it emerged its campaign manager was filmed apparently admitting he encouraged a rival candidate. Chris Heaton-Harris was caught suggesting his friend James Delingpole, a journalist, put his name forward as part of a “strategy” against onshore wind farms.
Speaking to a Greenpeace
activist posing as a wind power opponent last month, the Daventry MP said: “There’s a bit of strategy behind what’s going on.
“I’m running the Corby by-election for the Tories and
Delingpole, who is my constituent and a very good friend, put his head above the parapet but won’t put his deposit down. It’s just part of the plan.”
The admission followed an apparent coalition split last month between Tory energy minister John Hayes and his boss, Lib Dem Cabinet minister Ed Davey.
Mr Hayes said of onshore wind “Enough is enough” – sparking praise from Tory peer Lord Cormack, who said yesterday: “He echoed the feelings of many throughout this country and we believe he is a hero.”
Speaking at Lords questions, Labour spokeswoman Baroness Worthington claimed: “We have the Corby shambles and a government at war with itself over wind farms.”Fellow Labour peer Lord Foulkes accused Mr Heaton-Harris of “undermining the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary”. But energy minister Baroness Verma insisted the policy on wind turbines was unchanged.
Parliamentary by-elections also take place today in two safe Labour seats – Cardiff South and Penarth and Manchester Central.