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Labour candidate Jim Clarke.

Labour candidate Jim Clarke.

Nobody should get their hopes too high that the Conservatives will be defeated at Sleaford and North Hykeham.

A majority of 24,115 at the general election last year means any other party would face a near insurmountable task to overturn it.

But Labour’s Jim Clarke seems a good choice. He’s a dustman, meaning the party is fielding people with real jobs again; he’s a local man; and he’s hitting the right policy points on poverty and the NHS.

Regarding Brexit, the arguments are now so confused, who knows what’s right any more?

UKIP certainly doesn’t. The party that couldn’t even spell the name of the constituency properly has flooded it with activists in the hope of emulating the Liberal Democrat win in Richmond Park last week – without understanding why the Lib Dems succeeded.

Richmond Park had been a Liberal Democrat stronghold before Zac Goldsmith took the seat in 2010. Residents only needed a nudge to go back to their old ways, and the huge numbers of campaigners meant they actually received a shove.

In Sleaford and North Hykeham, UKIP came third, behind Labour. A victory from such a distance seems unlikely.

But will Labour make significant inroads into the Tory vote? Could UKIP leapfrog Labour to gain second place?

These are all valuable data to election watchers – far more so than the opinion polls that have been pushed out by the newspapers lately and that seem to run in defiance of what happens at the ballot box.

Polls have opened in the second Brexit by-election with Labour aiming to take advantage of mild weather to boost turnout.

Jim Clarke, a dustman and GMB activist, hopes to make inroads into the Tory vote but paediatrician Caroline Johnson is favourite to replace Stephen Phillips, who stepped down over “irreconcilable policy differences” with his boss Theresa May.

Temperatures in Sleaford are expected to run between 10 and 13 degrees Celsius for much of today, in contrast to the near-zero conditions which provided the backdrop to the poll in Richmond Park a week ago.

Clarke is one of 10 candidates fighting the seat which is located in North Kesteven which, at 62.2 per cent, was one of the strongest Brexit-supporting areas. When he was selected as Labour’s candidate Clarke said immigration “played a big part” in the vote to leave the EU.

In last year’s general election Labour came second in Sleaford and North Hykeham, behind a Tory majority of 24,115, with UKIP close behind them in third place.

UKIP, whose candidate is Victoria Ayling, has flooded the seat with activists in an attempt to revive their fortunes under new leader Paul Nuttall.

Source: Mild weather prompts hopes of high turnout in today’s Brexit by-election | LabourList

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