There aren't many by-elections that are as crucial as Eastleigh is, it is crucial for both Coalition parties but also for Labour and the United Kingdom Independence Party.
Starting with the Coalition. If the Liberal Democrats can hang on to the constituency in light of the reason for the by-election, Chris Huhne's resignation, the recent allegations against Chris Rennard and the unpopularity of the party in national polls then it really will be a coup for them. It would also boost party moral ahead of the 2015 general election and would cement Nick Clegg's position as Lib Dem Leader. However the Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton has had a good campaign despite the distractions.
For the Conservatives a Lib Dem win would be, some would say, self inflicted after they selected Maria Hutchings as their candidate whos campaign has been a total disaster from the start. She has made a number of gaffes, highlighting policies where she opposes her own party, refusing to attend a couple of hustings meetings and describing herself as the "honest" candidate and refusing to answer questions on her CV which it's claim contains "inconsistencies". She has been described as the "Sarah Palin" candidate. The Labour MP Chris Bryant was told off in the Commons for shouting "Sarah Palin" at the Prime Minister when the Prime Minister was answering a question on the Eastleigh by-election.
The United Kingdom Independence Party candidate Diane James has had, by the standards of the Conservative candidate, a good campaign. Although having to apologise for comments about Romanian and Bulgarian people after she suggested that most would come here simply to "commit crime". Other than that it has been a pretty gaffe free campaign. UKIP have thrown a lot into this campaign and many pundits believe that they will push the Tories close for second place and may even take it from them.
The Labour candidate John O'Farrell came under a sustained attack from the Tories yesterday after his comments in his 1998 book regarding the Brighton bombing in 1984. Mr O'Farrell has apologised for any offence caused when he wrote of his "disappointment" that Mrs Thatcher didn't die during the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel. The Labour leader Ed Miliband was baited by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, yesterday and asked if he condemned Mr O'Farrell's comments - Mr Miliband didn't take the opportunity. Mr O'Farrell has been criticised for simply making jokes during the campaign rather than talking about policy. There are nine other candidates from minor parties and one Independent.
The campaign has been a short one but even from the outside it is clear that Maria Hutchings would be a disaster in the Commons, not only for the people of Eastleigh but the Conservative party as well. The Labour and UKIP candidates don't stand much of a chance of winning. The only candidate that should be elected in Eastleigh is the Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton. Mike Thornton has represented the people of Eastleigh for years as a local councillor and seems he is straight talking and would be an asset to the Commons.
Voting takes place today and the polls are open until 22:00.