With just over a week to go until both Stoke Central and Copeland elect their new MPs, I am going to stick my neck out and say that Labour will hold both seats on the 23 February. Of course, that prediction could go tits up with the Tories taking Copeland and UKIP grabbing Stoke, but my call is that I don't think they will.
Copeland is that rarity in today's politics of a working class seat where the people actually have jobs. A lot of them are employed at Old Leaky, as the Sellafield nuclear plant is called by cynics everywhere, which means that there are strong unions that are affiliated to Labour, with shop stewards and conveners who will help get the vote out.
Thanks to that the local Labour party has a sizeable membership that consists of people who do real jobs, rather then working in the teaching trade or social work industry. The party can be expected to have its finger on the local pulse, which is probably why Jeremy Corbyn has decided to stay away.
Given that Labour has a fully functioning machine in Copeland, we can expect that the postal voters have already been contacted and jollied along into returning their ballots already. Canvassers will be knocking on the doors of people who have voted Labour in the past, and reminded that it is time to turn out for the old cause once again.
Luckily, Labour has some ready made issues in Copeland that it can use to attack the Tories. Chief amongst them is the scandal involving the government's desire to close down part of the local hospital, a matter that Labour has a track-record of opposing.
Stoke Central is a seat that Labour does not deserve to hold, and the fact that it probably will is proof positive that there is no justice in the political world.
The Labour candidate Gareth Snell is appalling, with one Stoke source telling me that he not only looks like a potato, but has the intellect of one as well. Snell campaigned actively for Brussels in the referendum in a division that gave almost seventy percent of its vote to leave. All in all this is a seat that UKIP should walk, but thanks to their stupidity, it looks like they will fail yet again.
To be fair to UKIP, they have probably fulfilled their historic mission of getting us out of the European Union. There is no need for UKIP to act as anything other than a pressure group now that both main parties are united in their desire to wave goodbye to the EU.
Gareth Snell has enough common sense to realise that trying to refight the battle is a waste of time and has made his peace with the Brexiteers. He has also been seen walking in the constituency with Jeremy Corbyn, so nobody can accuse him of not being a loyal party man.
As I write, what is left of the Labour machine in Stoke will have cranked itself into action to ensure that loyal voters either turn out on the day or send in their postal ballots.
None of that would be enough to win a seat that Labour has treated with such utter contempt down the years had it none been for the fact that UKIP really has proved that it is the Dad's Army of British politics.
It is not just the dubious claims that their candidate and leader Paul Nuttall has supposedly made about holding a PhD, playing professional football, being at Hillsborough when so many Liverpool fans died or living at an address in Stoke that he didn't. All of them can be explained away as the actions of enthusiastic amateur volunteers, but the fact that more and more of these old claims are seeing the light of day suggests to a lot of people that Nuttall is a fantasist or that UKIP are run by rank incompetents.
A party that is so incompetent cannot be expected to run an efficient campaign, and sure enough, UKIP's campaign looks as if Fred Karno is heading it. Kippers do not want to knock on doors, what they want to do is write letters to the press, presumably in green ink, concerning their latest hobby horse. The party cannot send in trained organisers to knock heads together because, I am assured by sources in UKIP, those organisers were all loyal to Nigel Farage and left with him.
Put everything together, UKIP stupidity, Tory vileness, and local Labour parties in both Copeland and Stoke that are determined to win, and my guess is that Labour will hold both seats next week.