No sooner are two lively by-elections out of the way, then now we have another.

In the current, fevered atmosphere, speculation is already under way about what could happen in Manchester Gorton, following the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman.

Manchester Gorton hasn’t exactly been volatile in its voting.  It is solidly Labour.  Kaufman’s vote at every election since 1979 held above 50%, reaching its highest in 2015, at 67%.

But interestingly, in 2005 and 2010, the Liberal Democrats emerged as a strong challenger, polling 33%. They then melted away to just 4% in 2015.

Liberal Democrats have staged some spectacular gains in northern Labour heartlands in recent local government by-elections. Seeing that they can plausibly argue to have one-third of the voters as a base to start from, their hopes might be high in this by-election. Especially as Gorton voted about 65% for Remain in the EU Referendum.

But the Liberal Democrats may be worried about their failure to revive post-2015.

Gorton voted again in 2016 in the Manchester City Council elections. Labour held its 67% share. The Greens were second on 14%. The Liberal Democrats stayed marooned on 5%.

Labour will have no other challenger. Mrs May will not want to push her case as the spokesperson for working class people in Gorton.  The Conservative base is 10%, and unlikely to shift.

UKIP will find no fertile territory here, given the strong Remain vote, and the heavily non-white local population.

So, at this stage, the only potential significant challenge to Labour would come from the Liberal Democrats. But, as we have seen, their vessel looks holed beneath the water line, on recent evidence.

The by-election will probably be called for May 4, the same day as voting for the Manchester mayor takes place, as well as local elections and other mayorals across Britain. With so much voting taking place, attention will be spread about, and there is unlikely to be a media circus descending on Gorton.

That would suit Labour. They will want to keep the profile of this contest low.

Much may depend on candidate selection. The Gorton Labour Party is not a happy outfit, and the party’s regional managers will be stepping in to organise the selection and the campaign.  There is potential for a major falling out, and, in this event, possibly rival Labour candidates. But the odds are likely to be against such a mess.

At this stage, it doesn’t look as though Gorton will be a particularly interesting by-election. If Labour cruise home, Mr Corbyn will be able to take one step away from the Copeland fiasco.

But he still will not find May 5 a comfortable morning. His party’s by-election win will, in all probability, sit alongside a colossal loss of council seats across Britain as a whole.

That will probably turn out to be the real story on the morning after.

 

Main image: Gorton sign, Manchester, by Rept0n1x licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0