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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

A pre-Xmas by-election

It's a brutal fact that in the world of politics, death brings opportunity as well as sadness.

Alan Keen's funeral took place yesterday (well attended by Labour's great and the good, including Ed Miliband), clearing the way for the practical matter of the by-election for his seat.

I'm told that Angela Eagle [UPDATE: It's now going to be Rosie Winterton] will tomorrow move the writ for the Feltham and Heston by-election, sparking what could be one of the quickest polls for years.

One insider said that the party wants to move 'very quickly', which suggests that we could possibly get a pre-Christmas election.

CCHQ has already been mobilising and is planning a big push in a seat where it slashed Keen's majority to 4,658 at the last election. That means that the Tories have no choice but to treat this as a marginal. Moreover, the party also won Ann Keen's Brentford and Isleworth constituency and thinks that Hounslow borough is a classic swing battleground.

Still, Labour is confident that it will hold on, particularly given the Coaliton's lack of growth for the economy, and it can turn this from a marginal to a safe seat once more. It won back Hounslow in the 2010 local elections too.

The race for candidates will start very soon.

 

UPDATE: I'm told that the date of December 15 is now '99% certain'. So we will indeed get a pre-Xmas by-election.

The other sub-plot here is that it's a test for the Lib Dems. Will they put in a strong campaign and risk splitting the anti-Labour vote or will they leave off and give their Coalition partners a better chance of causing an upset?

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