In the Portsmouth municipal elections in May, who will be the Liberal Democrat candidate?
Apparently, although this is a safe LibDem ward (58.7% in 2010), there may not be one.
The sitting councillor is a certain Mike Hancock, of whom many — especially those with a scurrilous turn of interest — may have heard much.
Hancock is currently “suspended” from the LibDems, but only after a report by Nigel Pascoe, QC, was leaked. Political Scrapbook have been on the case.
It would be unnecessarily cruel to suggest that Mr Hancock has aged disgracefully since that photo above … well, perhaps not.
The [Portsmouth] News understands Cllr Hancock will still be able to attend group meetings but without voting rights.
And a meeting of the Portsmouth Lib-Dem exec agreed last night not to put up a candidate against Cllr Hancock in Fratton ward at May’s local elections.
The meeting saw seven vote for the motion, one against and one person abstained.
Not surprisingly, when Iain Dale cooked his predictions, that there would be 30-35 LibDems in the next Parliament about LibDems, he wrote:
Prediction: POSSIBLE CONSERVATIVE GAIN
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.
Dale may be on the right lines here (though he is surely sadly wrong about Lynne Featherstone having more than the faintest hope of holding Hornsey & Wood Green). What should not go unnoticed is the reservoir of potential left-of-centre votes in Portsmouth South. Hancock was elected for the SDP in the 1984 by-election. It was a three-horse race:
Despite what Dale says there, Hancock survived in 2010 by squeezing the Labour vote to half its natural level. That will not be repeated. The constituency, reckoned Anthony Wells:
contains Portsmouth University, and is the more student heavy of the two Portsmouth seats.
Portsmouth University has 18,000 students. In the 2010 General Election campaign, nationwide, students polled had near a half tending to the LibDems. Latest numbers suggest that figure is down to barely double figures — and a switch to Labour of perhaps 30% +. If those rough numbers make any sense, they alone destroy Hancock’s majority.