Ah Pompey South. My old stomping grounds. Yes I know I never lived in the constituency but anyone who was brought up a liberal in the area would always gaze wistfully at the seat. Being brought up in the Havant constituency, you knew David Willetts was waltzing in without too much drama.
Mike Hancock, old scuffball himself, has held on by his fingernails in this seat for a generation. Still his time is up and whilst he is standing as an independent, his odds of being sensationally returned to the seat as the MP are long, real long. They are longer than me scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final for Pompey next season and if anyone has seen Pompey (or me) play football recently then you know that you shouldn’t be taking the 50/1 on offer from the bookies for Mike Hancock to win here (seriously, 50/1? How tight are bookies being?)
Lets look at Iain Dale’s prediction first for this seat:
Sitting MP: Mike Hancock (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain
This seat is now a genuine three way marginal. The LibDems are confident of retaining it despite the Hancock scandal. His successor is the former LibDem leader of the local council. That is a double edged sword as council leaders generally have a lot of enemies.This seat has never had a huge LibDem majority since it was won by Mike Hancock in 1997. It’s always ranged between three and six thousand. It’s difficult to assess the impact of the groping scandal, but on top of their national woes, it could be that the Tories win back what was once for them a safe seat.
Hancock has failed to squeeze the Labour vote as much as some of his colleagues, and not so long ago they managed a healthy 25%. If they return to those levels the Tories will win, unless Labour do incredibly well nationally. In that case a Labour gain isn’t out of the question.
I’d very much contest the notion of this being a three-way marginal. This is a two-way seat. It is blue or it is orange. Labour have never won this seat and in all honesty they’ve never been close. In the Blair landslide of 1997, they were still 15% shy and third behind the Lib Dems and the Tories. Portsmouth South just isn’t Labour territory, the anti-Tory vote has been encircled by the Lib Dems and whilst some of these votes will drift away because of both the Hancock saga and the national issue, that vote will go to UKIP. So lets scratch Labour off the potential winners here despite Lord Ashcroft’s constituency poll of November 2014.
In said poll, Labour were third on 20% behind the Tories (30%), Lib Dems (25%) and just ahead of UKIP (17%). On the surface that looks encouraging for three of the four parties and not so for the Lib Dems. Yet when it comes to casting a ballot at the ballot box, the people of Portsmouth South know they have three real options. Firstly the Tories, secondly the Lib Dems and thirdly the protest vote and that would go to UKIP.
The headline number of the Lib Dems being 5% behind in the Ashcroft Poll was actually not half as bad as it could have been. I do hear things from the ground in the constituency because I still know a lot of people in the area. The support for UKIP is significant but not enough to really contemplate a win. They are looking to act as a spoiler and build for the future. So this election will come down to whether the Lib Dems can keep most of the anti-Tory vote or whether that drifts to the Greens, UKIP or even Labour. The Lib Dems need to retain 80% of the vote that was purely Anti-Tory to win. A tough ask.
Flick Drummond is the Conservative candidate who has good local credentials. The Tories are really attacking this seat and you can see why they are the favourites across the board. However I am surprised that aren’t shorter than they are. On the exchanges they are available at 8/11 and are rated as a 42% chance of winning by Betfair. The Lib Dems have a 27% chance of winning with UKIP and Labour sub 10% (with again the ‘others’ at 17% – others in this instance being the Greens – I am thinking Betfair are overcompensating for the Greens in Lib Dem held seats).
I think Mike Hancock standing is a much bigger blow than Gerald Vernon-Jackson was saying on South Today this evening. He is saying internal polling says it makes little difference and whilst it might not, there will be people who go into the ballot box on May 7 and put their x next to Mike Hancock without thinking.
The Tories are available at Evens if you look around and that is a cracking price. I’d like to see GVJ pull through but I think it’s a real tough one. The Lib Dems are available at 6/4 and that is too short. I think Ashcroft’s polling is wrong in that the Labour vote will drop significantly as Labour voters in Pompey South will lend their vote but I really do expect the Tories to squeak this one out by 2,000 or so. For GVJ to pull through then the UKIP vote has to come from over 50% ex Tory voters and I think it’ll be smaller than that, with a smattering of LDs, Lab and former non-voters making up the majority of UKIP’s vote.
I do hope I’m wrong on this one but I think the Tories finally wrestle back Portsmouth South but it is a seat that will go down to the final days of campaigning and if Nick Clegg performs well in that final Question Time seven days out from voting day then that alone could sway it but the smart money is on the blues (which is very rare to say in Pompey these days – I’m still backing you Andy – you can turn things around!)
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