Lib Dems claim Tories are switching in Bromley poll

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Indy Politics

Voters in south London are going to the polls today to fill a gap left by the death last month of the maverick right-wing MP Eric Forth.

The Liberal Democrats have been fighting hard in Bromley and Chislehurst in the hope that they pull off a victory that would be a serious setback for the Tory leader, David Cameron.

The signs yesterday were that the Conservative candidate, Bob Neill, will win, despite some haemorrhage in the Tory vote.

The Liberal Democrats claim they have persuaded a few Tory voters to switch to them, while some of the more traditional Tories who have been put out by Mr Cameron's campaign of modernisation have decided not to vote, or to switch their allegiance to the UK Independence Party.

Mr Cameron suffered a setback earlier this month when Bromley Conservatives rejected two of his "A-list" candidates, made up of the "beautiful people" Mr Cameron would like to see elected as Tory MPs, in a drive to increase the number of women MPs and MPs from ethnic minorities.

Offered a choice of two "beautiful people" - Julia Manning and Syed Kamall - Bromley Tories instead opted instead for Mr Neill, a lawyer who has been a member of the London Assembly since 2000.

Mr Cameron shrugged off the rebuff and praised Mr Neill as an "an outstanding champion" who knew the constituency "extremely well".

Mr Forth, who was first elected there in 1997, held the seat in 2005 with a 13,342 majority over Labour. Tory candidates took 60 per cent of the vote in the May council elections.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Ben Abbotts, a political lobbyist, has campaigned on his record as a local councillor, and attacked his Tory opponent as "three jobs Bob" - a reference to Mr Neill's seat on the GLA, the board of a local health authority and his legal work. But a senior party strategist admitted yesterday that a Liberal Democrat victory in Bromley was "a very tall order".