Yesterday - the day of the nail-biting Eastleigh by-election. It seems events had done everything they could to ensure we lose it. High profile former cabinet member Chris Huhne resigns as MP to spend time at her Majesty’s pleasure, thus sparking the contest in this marginal seat where we won by just 500 votes in 2005. And this week, we have done our best to feed as many negative front page headlines to the media as possible in the form of the Chris Rennard sexual harassment allegations (which came as news to me last week when I first heard them despite being a former member of staff with access to all the rumours at the centre.)
So with everything going against us, we went into our own Battle of Stalingrad where there was a ground war to be won or lost. It appears that it was fought street by street, house by house, sucking in vast armies of activists battling it out. After midnight, Lib Dems at the count were openly predicting a victory so I decided to stay up for the declaration which arrived at 2.20am. And yes, we won. And UKIP grabbed 2nd place. The Tories sank to 3rd place and Labour languished in 4th place. There were a few amusing moments when Labour spokespeople attempted to claim that the result showed a triumphant move forward for Labour who were now poised to grab lots of seats in the South. Clearly, the likes of Chuka Ummuna and John Denham were there to provide entertainment rather than serious comment.
Back in 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad marked the turning point of the ground war in Europe. There was not a smooth journey to Berlin in May 1945 but the direction of travel of the war. was clear. So is Eastleigh our Stalingrad – a hard won victory and the start of a two year bumpy and difficult journey towards the final and successful election battle? Time will tell.