Nick Clegg yesterday won the race to become the first party leader to get to Eastleigh, where the Lib Dems are about to test their theory that they can hold onto their seats against Tory challenges in 2015.
Bravely, Clegg chose to tour a college where car mechanics were being trained, which given the circumstances in which Chris Huhne, the previous MP, had to resign his seat, helped the picture caption writers no end.
The Lib Dem leader gave off an air of unruffled determination, telling reporters he was “very confident” that his party would hold on to the seat.
But the mood among voters hurrying along the town’s sleet-lashed High Street was not so enthusiastic. Although Huhne’s guilty plea for perverting the course of justice did not appear high up on the list of considerations of anyone we talked to, it does seem to have fed into an anti-politics mood that may result in a low turnout.
Pamela Steward told us:
He did the crime, he should do the time – I know a lot of other people around here are thinking the same thing.
Another man, who didn’t want to be named, said:
People shouldn’t be too surprised – it’s what you expect from politicians.
George Jones was blunter, labelling the town’s former MP a
All this suggests, that as YouGov’s Peter Hennessy wrote in the Guardian on Monday, this election will be determined largely by who can overcome the apathy and persuade their voters to turn out on February 28th.