There is a by-election in Fenham ward in Newcastle today. Labour are defending the seat though it is a ward with a colourful political history.
Until the 80s it was a strong Tory ward but they lost to Labour and have since collapsed, as they have across the whole of Newcastle and Gateshead. Labour held the ward comfortably for 20 years and it returned 3 Labour councillors in 2004 despite their meltdown elsewhere in the city.
Then in 2006 Labour lost a seat to the Lib Dems. In 2007 they held on though only by a slender 4 votes and a similar number of recounts. And in 2008, Labour lost again to the Lib Dems. It is the Labour seat in the ward that is being fought over in this byelection, sparked by the death of the Labour councillor. Labour opted for the long campaign. The seat became vacant in September so the battle has lasted 4 months. Presumably Labour thought of themselves as the underdog and wanted more time to claw back what they regarded as the Lib Dem lead.
Into this battlefield rode the BNP. From what I had heard, they have thrown everything into the contest, or so it seems. I have seen concerns about the rise in the BNP vote on one Labour blog and I know what our own people are telling me. With just this one seat to focus on, their vote is going up. Watch out for a possible upset tonight.
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