THE Liberal Democrats are surging towards victory in the Eastleigh by-election on 9 June, according to the latest poll, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.
The poll, by Southampton University for the Southern Daily Echo, is the second since the death of Stephen Milligan, Eastleigh's former MP, to put the Tories in third place. It shows the Liberal Democrats with 44.9 per cent, Labour with 21.8 per cent and the Conservatives trailing at 16.9 per cent.
Although nearly 9 per cent of voters, many of them Tories, are still undecided and a further 4 per cent refused to reveal their intentions, David Chidgey, the Liberal Democrat candidate, is on course to capture the Hampshire seat.
The poll, supervised by Ian Forbes, senior lecturer in the department of politics, shows the economy, crime and unemployment as the main poll issues.
Labour insisted the indication that it would achieve a more than respectable second place exploded Liberal Democrat claims that the south of England was a two-way battle involving them and the Tories. Dr Forbes said Labour's prediction had to be balanced against the relatively high proportion of people who do not know or will not say how they will vote. But he agreed a Labour second place was 'capable of achievement'.
The survey, based on a representative sample of 960 voters, will encourage Liberal Democrat hopes of winning the Itchen Test and Avon European Parliament seat.
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