Monday, 30 March 2015

Can UKIP win in Portsmouth South?

The decision of Mike Hancock, the current MP for Portsmouth South, to stand again as an independent candidate opens up the opportunity of a UKIP win in this constituency, which must be regarded as prime UKIP territory.

Hancock was thoroughly disgraced and had the Liberal Democrat whip withdrawn after he was forced to apologise for sordid and inappropriate conduct after sexually pursuing a constituent with mental health problems, which he was forced to apologise for in 2014.

I used to live in Portsmouth South and rumours of Hancock's sexually predatory nature had been circulating in the constituency for more than a decade before his sleazy conduct was finally exposed. Like most Lib Dems Hancock is a cynical careerist and it is speculated that his decision to stand again is just to gain the MP severance allowance of £33,000 he would otherwise lose by voluntarily standing down - an allegation Hancock has, of course, denied. He certainly has form for cynical campaigning in the amoral Lib Dem tradition, heavily distorting the truth about rival candidates in his election literature. Despite his party's rabid pro-Europeanism, he also once campaigned on a platform to give people a referendum on Europe in what is a strongly nationalist constituency thanks to the Royal Naval and military traditions of the area - a classic case of the Lib Dems telling local voters what they want to hear whether or not it is party policy.

It's hard not to take pleasure in the fact that  the Lib Dems have once again found their cynicism has come back to haunt them. Currently the party have a majority of 5,200 in the constituency over the second place Tories but with Hancock standing as an independent this will split the vote: despite his despicable behaviour, like all Lib Dem MPs Hancock will have worked hard to gain a personal following down the years so this should count in his favour. Secondly the general unpopularity of the Lib Dems nationally will severely dent their chances.

The question is: can UKIP win it? In many ways it is prime UKIP country, demographically having a strong white working class make up. UKIPs defence policies and promise to spend more on the Navy will go down very well there given the town's proud naval traditions and reliance on defence industries. UKIP got 24% of the vote in the 2014 local elections for the city council and gained 6 councillors from a standing start. A local UKIP branch has also been formed in the area.

Realistically the Tories, who got 33% of the vote in 2010 must now be the favourites to take the seat but UKIP may well come a strong second and turn the seat into a future three way marginal.

Who knows - we may just win it!