Presumably with an eye to a swift recovery after a possible drubbing in today’s local and mayoral elections, Labour is sensibly losing no time on the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. They have already taken the unusual decision to table the writ before the funeral of Gwyneth Dunwoody has taken place and it now looks as if they are lining up Gwyneth’s politically active daughter – Tamsin Dunwoody – as their candidate.
The late Gwyneth Dunwoody had a 7,000 majority and the seat is only 165th on the Conservative list of target seats, requiring an 8.4 percent swing. This said, if the News of the World’s target seat data is to be believed then this could be a Conservative gain. Their ICM poll suggests that the Conservatives would make a net gain of 131 seats, resulting in a 64-seat majority – or, to put it another way, Tory donor Lord Ashcroft’s field-ops team has done rather well.
Either way, we have an intriguing contest on our hands. If the Conservatives fail to make a significant inroad into the Labour majority Brown will use it to shore up his position, whilst if the Tory’s cut the majority to anything below 3,000, Cameron will really be able to claim that his message is reverberating throughout the country.
The election is only three weeks away, on Thursday 22 May. It will be very interesting to see what happens.