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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

Beastly in Eastleigh for LibDems?

No sooner had Chris Huhne announced he would step down than bookies William Hill were quick out of the traps.

They immediately installed the Conservatives as 1/ 2 favourites to win the seat at the by-election, with the Lib Dems 6/4 to retain it.  Hills make UKIP 33/1 shots to take the seat with Labour 100/1 outsiders.

I know common sense suggests this is a Tory gain, not least the fact that the party has been preparing hard (starting under Baroness Warsi's co-chairmanship) on the ground for just this moment. Huhne's majority is only 3,800.

But will things really be so beastly in Eastleigh for the Libs?

Don't forget Labour won Phil Woolas' seat despite him having to stand down. And in Eastleigh the Libs are still strong. Out of the 44 seats on the local Eastleigh council, they have 40 seats (yes FORTY) to the Tories' four.  (The party actually increased its number of seats in the 2012 local elections).

Council leader Keith House is sure to be tipped as the favourite candidate, a new broom after the Huhne years and don't forget UKIP could indeed split the Tory vote in unpredictable ways.

These may all be straws at which Libs may clutch in their hour of gloom. The odds set by the bookies are probably on the money. But some of the smarter people in CCHQ are far from underestimating the Lib Dem machine's capacity to fight - and fight hard.

 

 

620PM UPDATE: Cllr House has just ruled himself out. He told me: "I am clear that I have no wish to stand as a candidate in the election"

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