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How Safe Is Bromley and Chislehurst? 31 May 2006

Posted by David in Conservatives.
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After the sudden death of Eric Forth MP, the party is facing one of its first defensive byelections of the Millennium, and the first parliamentary test of David Cameron's leadership. By-elections always worry me as they are so open to protest votes and local issues they are hard to draw conclusions from, yet conclusions always are drawn. Take for instance the more recent – that of Dunfermline – won by the Liberal Democrats despite their numerous troubles at that time, thanks mainly to a campaign based around a toll bridge.

The party has thankfully avoided a head on confrontation over the A-list, with Bromley and Chislehurst Conservatives free to select whomever they like. A candidate has yet to be selected. I hope however that they hurry up, the Lib Dems are well known by-election agents and have already chosen their candidate, Ben Abbotts. They had in fact even started campaigning before Eric Forth's funeral, although this caused quite a storm and Ming the Minger as the Sun dubbed him, has since ordered his party to wait for the election writ.

The last time the Conservatives were defending a seat at a by-election, Romsey in 2000, the Lib Dems won and still hold it to this day. It is possible to draw many comparisons between the two seats, both deemed safe Conservative areas. Romsey had a Conservative majority of 8,585 in 1997, with 46% vote share. The Lib Dems had 30% and Labour 19%. Being cheeky so and sos, Labour hardly campaigned, dropping to just 3.7% of the vote.

Now look at Bromley and Chislehurst. Eric Forth won in 2005 with a 13,342 majority on 51%. Labour was on 22% and the Lib Dems on 20%. They have a considerable Labour vote to eat into once again, and who'd vote Labour at the moment? To add to the problems, there's two independent conservatives standing so far, John Hemming-Clark and Chad Noble. There is also likely to be a strong UKIP campaign, possibly with Nigel Farage MEP as the candidate. At the South Staffordshire delayed poll, UKIP won 10% of the vote. The BNP and English Democrats may also enter the race, the ED's getting 2.5% at the South Staffs poll.

So the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election certainly isn't a foregone conclusion, with an awful lot on the line. Chameleons on Bicycles wishes the real Conservative candidate – whoever that will be – the best of luck.

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