We’re in the last 2 days of the Ealing Southall by-election, and it will soon be decision time. The three major party campaigns all seem fairly orientated towards bashing each other over minutiae as the seconds tick away, but I’m guessing at this stage most minds will have been made up.
My own prediction, is not very brave, I think it’ll be either Labour or the Liberal Democrats on Thursday.
Conservative Tony Lit is probably the most interesting candidate, but not necessarily for the right reasons. As noted earlier this week I think the Labour donor story will probably have done for his chances by crippling his narrative as the alternative to Labour and making him seem light-weight.
If he doesn’t win though he should keep trying. If he spends the next 1-2 years until the General Election with his sleeves rolled up, looking less like a media tycoon being gifted a seat through daddy’s business contacts, and more like a campaigner who really wants to work across all communities, he will do much do dismiss perceptions of his superficiality and opportunism. He could be good representative one day, I’m not sure about now.
Labour I always thought would play a safe, low-key campaign and that seems to be what has happened. They have done the least visible campaigning of the three parties, but then can afford to lose a lot of votes without losing the seat. If they hold, the General Election is not a forgone conclusion, but it will simply be one seat in six-hundred, not the focus of national media excitement; so much more difficult for a challenger.
The candidate, Virendra Sharma, I suspect disappointed a lot of Labour supporters. I’m certainly under-whelmed rather than enthused or hostile. He’s not obviously a hero or villain, or obviously that different from his predecessor, but that’s part of his problem. Piara Khabra, it was suggested by the press, wanted a young Asian woman to succeed him, to change the politics of this community. The offer instead is more of the same, which highlights the alternatives and youth offered by both opponents.
There’s also the whiff of sectarianism around his nomination and subsequent defections, although that may have been inevitable whomever Labour selected. It can’t though have been helpful to Labour to be seen as divided. His vote will surely be less than Piara Khabra’s, the only question is by how much.
The Liberal Democrat campaign has had the most activity and variety of all three, perhaps too much variety and too little focus at times. However they do seem to have won the battle to be crowned chief challengers after Tony Lit’s wobble at the weekend.
Nigel Bakhai also has something of the ‘safety-choice’ air about him. While both the Conservative and Labour candidates have been personally attacked as liabilities (mostly by each other), Nigel Bakhai seems to have been relatively controversy-free. That may be a strong card if people vote for the candidate with the least mud stuck to them.
The question now though is whether that amounts to enough to overtake Labour as well as the Conservatives.
I’m still mostly undecided as to which way I’m going to jump on Thursday, I voted Labour last time, Conservative in the locals and GLA (not a Ken fan), and Liberal Democrat for the European Parliament.
The greatest pity I think, will be whoever I do vote for will not be my MP next time regardless of whether they win. My house will be in Ealing Central and Acton at the next election.