A coachload of London Liberal Democrats went down to Eastleigh yesterday, where we found the by-election headquarters a hive of activity; apparently nearly 500 volunteers from all over the country went through the doors during the day. I don’t remember such a positive buzz about a by-election since the early days of the Liberal-SDP Alliance, but the difference in the level of professionalism between now and 30 years ago was striking. Arriving helpers were immediately divided and labelled into canvassers, deliverers and clerical, and people were genuinely asked what they preferred to do, rather than just being told, as if so often the case at such times. The warehouse space being used was large enough to have a number of different activities going on at the same time, while printers continued to churn out new literature. That literature itself was of a far higher quality than has sometimes been the case and presented the LibDem candidate Mike Thornton — a respected local councillor — as a man of the community who will do all he can to represent the areas interests at Westminster. So it was a pleasure to deliver it, even in the freezing cold and flurries of snow. Unusually, every single councillor in the constituency, at local and county level, is LibDem, but that almost embarrassing dominance does not mean the by-election is going to be a walkover. The Party is still languishing at between 10 and 12 per cent in the national opinion polls and has been the subject of negative publicity recently, including over former MP Chris Huhne’s resignation and trial. Nonetheless there are a good number of dayglo poster boards up around the constituency and local opinion polls suggest the LibDems and Tories are neck and neck. UKIP is also going to poll well (though not well enough), with Labour trailing badly in fourth place. Of course we won’t know the actual result until after the count, but Mike Thornton deserves to win and both the number and enthusiasm of party helpers out and about in the constituency bode well for the Party’s health.