These are dire results for the Tories, among their worst by-election defeats since 1945.
The the biggest collapse was in Tiverton and Honiton. The result there set a new record: the largest percentage Conservative majority overturned in a by-election.
It replaces Shropshire North in the top spot, baffling Tories who mistakenly thought things couldn’t get any worse after this mutilation.
Reaction as PM suffers by-election defeats and party chairman resigns – live updates
The swing to the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton is 29.9%. Not the worst, with the disaster that was the Christchurch by-election still at the top of the list.
But the latter result becomes the sixth worst pass from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors in the post-war period.
Comparisons to the by-election reversals during the Tories’ slow march towards disaster in the 1997 general election will certainly focus the minds of his MPs representing seats across the south of England.
No one expects the Liberal Democrats to achieve the same success in the next general election, but it seems many have now forgiven the party for joining David Cameron’s coalition government.
Labor’s long wait to take a Conservative seat in a by-election is finally over. The last time Labor won a seat was in Corby in November 2012.
Coincidentally, the swing was then the same – 12.7% – like in Wakefield, which becomes the Tories’ seventh worst defeat against Labor.
Sir Keir Starmer’s Labor is still far from inflicting the pain inflicted by Tony Blair’s New Labor in the mid-1990s.
But the victory at Wakefield has enormous symbolic value.
It demonstrates that Boris Johnson’s 80-seat majority in the House of Commons – built largely on his gain of Labour’s so-called ‘red wall’ seats, including Wakefield, is vulnerable.
An outright victory for Labor in the next general election, however, remains a remote possibility.
Labor needs a 12% swing to win a majority of just two, assuming the next election is on current constituency boundaries.
It’s more than Tony Blair achieved in a landslide victory in 1997, and not far off the swing of Wakefield, which we should ignore because it was a by-election.
But there is something else about these results that should strike fear into Tory ranks: The Liberal Democrats won at Tiverton due to large-scale desertion from Labor voters.
Labor’s victory in Wakefield was helped by the absence of a serious Liberal Democrat campaign.
Following these results, it is likely that we will hear more about electoral pacts and/or tactical voting as the best method of expressing anti-conservative sentiment.
For this reason, these two by-elections – organized on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the referendum on the EU – cannot be dismissed as a simple consequence of the unpopularity experienced by all governments in the middle of their parliamentary term.
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