The party, which yesterday stepped up its campaign on tax with a claim that unemployment was now costing every family pounds 20 per week, is looking for a high profile candidate and is going all-out to maximise its vote in the by-election.
Amid speculation that the Liberal Democrats could be heading for another spectacular by-election victory in the Hampshire seat left vacant by the death of the Conservative Stephen Milligan, Labour is determined to use the poll to demonstrate that it remains an electoral force in the South.
Two senior Shadow Cabinet members, Frank Dobson and Jack Straw, are being dispatched on visits to the constituency over the next fortnight. The strategy is high-risk since the more successful it is, the likelier the Tories are to hold off a Liberal Democrat threat. The late Mr Milligan's majority was more than 17,000 and he secured 51.3 per cent of the vote compared with 28 per cent for the Liberal Democrats and 20 per cent for Labour.
With percentage shares respectively of 6 and 12 per cent, Labour's vote collapsed in Newbury and Christchurch as its supporters voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats as the only party with a chance of beating the Tories.
The new Labour calculations on the tax costs of unemployment, disclosed yesterday by Harriet Harman, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, says since 1979 unemployment has cost the country about pounds 280bn - about pounds 12,000 for every family.
Meanwhile Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, acknowledged that it would be 'hugely expensive' to restore the link between pensions and earnings. He hinted yesterday on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost that state benefit for pensioners needed to be better targeted so that poorer pensioners received a higher level of income support, funded by reductions in benefit for those who were well off.