Can Chris Rennard turn the battle of the blog in Hartlepool?

Can Chris Rennard turn the battle of the blog in Hartlepool?


    Labour – speaking up for drunks and irresponsible pet owners

With the campaign going into its final weekend Labour remain very firm favourites to hold onto the seat vacated by Peter Mandelson. If you want to bet on Labour then the best price is 2/5 from PaddyPower. For the Lib Dems the fluctuating Betfair betting exchange price seems to offer the best value.

    The betting odds are in spite of Labour following precisely the same type of campaign that saw a 28% collapse in Birmingham Hodge Hill and brought them to within a few hundred votes of losing the seat.

The aim has been to find a chink in the LD candidate and focus everything on that. In Birmingham it was the candidate’s job in the mobile phone industry – in Hartlepool it’s some unwise comments made on her campaign blog.

In it she described canvassing in one part of Hartlepool where everybody was “drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed.” They’ve even gone to the extent of arranging a poster van featuring the remark to be driven round the streets , they’ve started a “pride in Harlepool petition” and have organised a photo-call.

This is a high risk stategy especially in view of what happened in Hodge Hill. It appeals to activists but does it appeal to voters who might wonder why issues like the NHS, eduaction, law and order and Iraq are not being high-lighted? The Birmingham outcome indicates that electors don’t like this approach.

Lord Chris Rennard, above, who is masterminding the LD campaign has built up a formidable reputation by finding the issues that resonate with electors in by-elections. Watch for the way he might turn this round on Labour – could he develop this line?

    While the LDs have been trying to ensure the future of the local hospital all Labour wants to do is defend excessive drinking and irresponsible pet ownership.

Whether Labour have got it right we will know in the early hours of next Friday morning. Will it fire up stay-at-home Labour supporters to turn-out? We think it’s going to re-bound because it looks so trivial and focuses attention on the LDs.

    Although we stick with our Labour call do not underestimate Chris Rennard. The 4/1 Betfair price looks tempting for someone who fancies a punt at reasonable odds.

A good guide to the outcome will be the way people are betting. If the hundreds of Lib Dem activists who will be flooding into the town this weekend from all over the UK get a sniff that a victory is possible then the price will come right down. This was a good guide at Brent East, Leicester South and Birmingham Hodge Hill and we expect it to be the same in Hartlepool. You can see an interesting chart on price movements by clicking on the party names in the betting exchange screen.

Whatever Hartlepool will be an internet first – a by-election where a blog becomes centre stage. For good coverage of the by-election check out the excellent Guacamoleville site.

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