Could the result not be a forgone conclusion after all?
So far punters have not got very excited about next Thursday’s by-elections in Bromley and Blaenau Gwent and on the betting markets very little money has been wagered.
The Tories look a near certainty to hold onto the outer London seat and there’s does not seem to be much interest in whether Labour can win back its former Welsh stronghold taken by the late Peter Laws in 2005 after the all-female shortlist row.
But could Bromley be turned on its head by Simon Heffer – the acerbic Telegraph columnist who now according to Guido’s site is planning to abandon the Tories and back UKIP.
According to Guido Heffer will endorse the anti-EU party at a meeting next Monday in Bromley with Nigel Farage – the prominent UKIP MEP who is standing in the by-election. Such a move just three days before polling could have a big impact and might see some Tory votes shifting across.
David Cameron has aroused passions of all kinds right across the political spectrum since his election as Tory leader last December – but few have been so forthright in their condemnation as Heffer. The former Daily Mail columnist played a key role in shaping the Telegraph’s lukewarm stance on the old-Etonian during campaign and he has been a fierce critic ever since.
Blunting the Telegraph’s support for the Tory leader could prove to have long-term significance although a Heffer move to UKIP, if Guido is right, would surely undermine the columnist’s influence both at the paper and within the Tory party.
In the seat UKIP are claiming that an internet poll is showing support of 22% and in a classic Lib Dem by election tactic are claiming that only their party “has a chance at toppling the Tories in Bromley & Chislehurst: a vote for Labour or the Lib Dems is a sure way to return Bob Neill as Conservative MP.”
The significance of Bromley will not be the result but the size of the Tory vote. If the national opinion polls are right then David Cameron, in his first by election defence, should surely expect to see an increase in the share on the General Election. A late UKIP surge could undermine that and put the EU issue further up the Tory agenda.
A Heffer intervention on Monday, if that indeed is what is going to happen, might give Farage a late boost and also impede the Lib Dem campaign momentum that has been building up.
Labour, which came second last May, look set to see a big decline in vote share and possibly be forced into fourth place.
Meanwhile the 0.1/1 on the Tories looks like free money.