Boris Johnson’s double defeat in the by-elections may well not trigger an immediate political reaction.
Too many Tory MPs had braced themselves for disappointment this morning all for immediate panic and there is no obvious mechanism that those who want the Prime Minister gone can reach.
This does not mean, however, that it is without major consequences. And what he tells us will slowly seep like poison into the conservatives’ bloodstream.
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But first there will be the apologies.
Tory MPs started looking for fig leaves and people to blame even before the result was known.
The CCHQ figures point to the 148 rebels presenting a disunited front – effectively blaming Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat and others.
There may well be an inquiry into whether it was right to pressure former Tiverton MP Neil Parish to step down.
Questions will be asked about how Imran Ahmad Khan became an MP.
No doubt a host of Tory MPs will repeat the mantra that Labor’s margin of victory could have been greater.
But the raw statistics are impossible to ignore.
Wakefield is the Labour’s first partial victory since 2012a swing of more than 12%.
The Liberal Democrats sensational result at Tiverton and Honiton – a nearly 30% gap to the Tories – is the highest percentage loss for the Tories in a by-election of all time, and one of the largest since the war.
This means that no Conservative seat can be considered safe.
It is not a predictor of what will happen in a general election, as Lib Dem resources would be much more dispersed in a national vote.
But it shows that last year’s results in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire were not anomalies and that voters in the more secure Tory seats can be persuaded to rethink backing the Tories.
Perhaps more important – this is proof of a tactical vote.
Labor lost their deposit at Tiverton because, it seems, many moved to the Lib Dems to oust Johnson. This is not proof of a pact, even if it did not go unnoticed. Labor MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw appeared to encourage voters in Tiverton to support the Lib Dems.
These are the two lessons that will provide the most food for thought for curators. Whether they will or can do anything about it remains to be seen.
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