Michael Crick was the first to talk about it last night on Channel 4 News and now others have spotted the Ukip surge in Eastleigh.

One Lib Dem MP I spoke to who was campaigning in the seat said he thought that Ukip might knock the Tories into third place and that they were threatening the Lib Dems from the winner’s spot.

He thought on balance Ukip wouldn’t get quite that far,  and as Michael Crick points out in tonight’s Channel 4 News, the Lib Dems should be indestructable here having got thousands of postal votes cast before the Lord Rennard saga got going.

 

27 eastleigh g w Eastleigh: all eyes on Ukip surge

One senior Conservative tells me that the Tories are also picking up the Ukip surge on their radar in the seat but they’re not sure if the party is gaining its latest voters from the Lib Dem or the Tory pile. One Lib Dem said he thought Ukip was draining votes from all three main parties.

Nerves are clearly jittery. I asked one Lib Dem MP if he thought Nick Clegg’s leadership was in danger as a result of the Rennard story. He said it wasn’t but then volunteered that a loss in Eastleigh could change that. He described the leadership’s approach to the Rennard story as “farcical,” “blundering” and ”catastrophic.”

One Lib Dem minister said it was hard to imagine how the leadership could have mishandled the Rennard story any more poorly.

Eastleigh could yet turn out to be an anti-establishment voter outburst, a home counties version of the Bradford West by-election last year that saw George Galloway returned to parliament.

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