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Tough Tory choices for a Sutton Coldfield by-election

Tough Tory choices for a Sutton Coldfield by-election

🕔04.Mar 2013

suttonWith the Eastleigh by-election debacle still ringing around his ears, David Cameron can hardly be relishing another challenging electoral contest even in what may at first glance appear to be a rock-solid Tory seat.

But the prime minister’s reported intention to make ‘plebgate’ MP Andrew Mitchell a European Commissioner opens up the possibility of a tasty tussle for votes in Sutton Coldfield.

It is true that any election to find a replacement for Mr Mitchell would not have to be held until next year, but the benefit of having plenty of time to plan for a by-election does not necessarily mean that the Conservative candidate will be victorious.

After all, the party had many months to prepare for Eastleigh given the clear likelihood that Liberal Democrat MP and former Energy Minister Chris Hune would eventually be forced to resign. But the generous timescale appeared to make little difference to the Tory high command who allowed 2010 General Election loser Maria Hutchings, a most unsuitable choice, to be the candidate.

Ms Hutchings duly presided over a 14 per cent collapse in the Tory vote as Lib Dem Mike Thornton cruised to victory. UKIP candidate Diana James came second with the benefit of a 19 per cent swing against the Liberal Democrats.

It can safely be assumed there will be no shortage of Conservatives throwing their hat in the ring for the right to contest Sutton Coldfield, which is generally regarded as one of the safest Tory seats in the country. The big question, of course, is this: is there any such thing as a safe Conservative seat at a by-election in the current political climate?

On paper, Sutton should be a breeze. Mr Mitchell managed to secure 54 per cent of the vote at the 2010 General Election, a slight improvement on 2005 and better still than 2001 when he ‘struggled’ to 50 per cent.

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