Today's By-Election in hartlepool could become another big embarrasment to not only Tony Blair and the Labour Party but to Michael Howard and the Conservatives too. When Peter Mandelson won the seat at the last election (2001) he had a majority of 14,000 with The Conservatives coming in second place with over two thousand votes more than the third place Liberal Democrats.
This year the by-election is too close to call with political commentators expecting a very close fight between labour and the Liberal Democrats for first place with the Conservatives possibly falling into fourth place behind the UK Independence Party.
Now this is absolutely brilliant from both a personal point of view and also from a political analysts view towards next years General Election and the way politics could work in the future.
The Conservatives should have been the party challenging Labour in Hartlepool. They came second last election and have a healthy presence on the local council. Yet, they are battling to come in third with UKIP and way behind the other two main parties in the local polls. Regardless of what spin Michael Howard tries to use on this it is an utterly devastating blow to the Conservatives and doesn't help them in regards to voters confidence towards the next election. The Conservatives do seem to be on a downward spiral.
The fact that the Liberal Democrats could overthrow Labour's dominance of Hartlepool (and thus overcomign a 16,000+ voter difference between the two parties at the last election) would normally shock everyone. But we've seen the LibDems sweep massive Labour majorities away several times this year so far, starting with Brent in the Spring. It is becoming a common trend that people are turning to the LibDems as not only the anti-government vote (which was usually either Labour or Conservatives depending on whom was actually in power) but turning to them as their party of choice. Now whilst the Iraq war has certainly helped the LibDems no end the Hartlepool campaign has been fought on local issues.
If Labour loose this seat then Tony Blair and co will have to start seriously worrying about the next General Election. Already National Polls have been indicating if we had a General Election now it would be too close to call. Some even have Labour into third place. All I have seen have had a maximum 5-point gap between first and third party at present. What would have seemed unbelievable a few years ago could really happen next year.
I for one will be watching the results carefully this evening. Even if Labour do manage to retain their seat it looks like it'll be a very close fight - and that will still scare a lot of Labour MPs.
Come on Hartlepool - Make us Proud!