Lib Dems win over disenchanted Tories: Conservative defections in Eastleigh are unlikely to benefit Labour's high-profile campaign. Patricia Wynn Davies reports

Labour claims that it will come second in the Eastleigh by-election and force a humiliating third place on the Tories are set to be dashed in tomorrow's poll, Liberal Democrat strategists have calculated.

The Liberal Democrats are trying to woo an estimated 17,000 undecided former Conservative supporters in the 96,000-voter constituency. About one in four of these would have to turn their backs on the Tories to ensure a Liberal Democrat victory.

But if the bulk defect to the Liberal Democrats' David Chidgey rather than stay at home, the party could win by up to 15,000, not far off the 17,702 majority bequeathed by the late Tory MP, Stephen Milligan, at the general election.

But for Labour the prospects are of a respectable but unexciting performance that is not expected to outstrip its 21 per cent share of the vote at the 1992 elections.

That will be embarrassing for a party that has spent thousands of pounds on a campaign that began at the end of February, involving a clutch of heavyweight national officials and constant visits from senior politicians, including the late Labour leader, John Smith.

Marilyn Birks, the Labour candidate, declared at her news conference yesterday that 'local election results and opinion polls are showing us that Labour is firmly in second place' - the first time she has conceded she cannot win.

The Labour high command has repeatedly insisted that to concede that south of England seats such as this are unwinnable would be political dynamite in the hands of the Tories. Tony Blair, the most likely future Labour leader, echoed that view during his third by- election visit yesterday. 'There's no point in going into a by-election unless you're going to win.'

But in the 5 May council contests, Labour and the Tories each captured 10,000 votes on a 53 per cent turn-out, compared with the Liberal Democrats' 20,000.

A crucial Tory objective in the next 36 hours is to counter 'voter fatigue' after these elections, which is one reason why turnout may fall from about 70 per cent to about 65 per cent. A key message is that former Conservatives must now return to the fold, but the announcement of 136 job losses at Pirelli, the cable maker and leading local employer, will not help.

The Tories were given a boost yesterday as Lord Archer, the former deputy party chairman, accompanied Stephen Reid, the Conservative candidate, on walkabouts in Woolston, a traditionally Labour area near Southampton, and in the town of Eastleigh.

Constantly recognised for his novel-writing, Lord Archer's visit is likely to have eclipsed Mr Blair's meeting with senior police officers, and even that of Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, whom the Liberal Democrat-controlled Eastleigh borough council insisted should park his helicopter at an outlying recreation ground.

But as the by-election winds up with visits today from Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, Gordon Brown, shadow Chancellor, and a final rally with Mr Ashdown, there seems little doubt about the Liberal Democrats' appeal to disenchanted Tories.

Scores on the doors, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain