Don't read too much into today's by-election result, urges Barton MP Martin Vickers
Today (Thursday) is polling day but don't worry you haven't got to rush down to the polling station – it's the Eastleigh by-election.
As is often the case the result will give not the slightest indication of the outcome of the next General Election – whatever the pundits may say, they, like you or me, can't possibly forecast what may happen in 26 months' time.
Let's put aside the fact that this is a by-election when voters, free from the task of electing a government, like to remind we politicians that they are the boss and no matter what they are determined to spring a surprise.
What will be the surprise this time round? If the Liberal Democrats win does it show despite the circumstances that brought about the poll – the downfall of former Energy Secretary and Lib Dem leadership contender Chris Huhne – the electorate can see beyond the failings of one individual? Probably so.
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If the Conservatives win will it be a vote of confidence in the general direction of the Government? Very likely.
If Labour win, will it be confirmation they have realised the error of their ways and will, in future, live within their means? Highly unlikely.
According to the polls the Lib Dems are the favourites to hold the seat with the Tories in second place, so whichever comes out on top the Government wins.
The big policy announcement of recent weeks has concerned adult social care.
The headline is that no-one will pay more than £75,000 – that's an enormous amount of money especially in a part of the country like ours where you can still buy a terraced house for less than that. It's not perfect say some critics, the upper limit is too high say others. Surely we should welcome a programme that will benefit 100,000 people who are not receiving the benefit now but will do when the policy is introduced.
Instead of knocking the proposals the critics should be asking the serious questions. This represents a massive and expensive extension of the welfare state. Can we as a country sustain the costs into the next generation? Will a future government be able to resist the demands to improve on the present limits and how will future taxpayers feel about it?
My answer is that we do most certainly want to improve the care of the elderly, but we must, at each stage, ensure that we can as a nation afford it.