Has Cameron got the most problems this morning?
Judged by the standards of normal mid-term by elections the reduced Labour majorities in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield were sensational victories for Labour. To have kept its average vote share loss in both seats down to 10.7% was something that the party can take real comfort from.
But these are not normal times and these cannot be judged as normal mid-term by elections. We have what’s being presented as a change of government and this was it first electoral test. Given the 40% poll ratings the party might have been hoping for better especially with the wall-to-wall the positive media coverage of Labour that has been enjoying for weeks.
So goodish for Gordon but not good enough for him to risk a general election.
But what about the Tories and the Lib Dems – should they have expected to do better? The answer must be yes and the outcomes were a real disappointment.
The Tories simply do not “do” by elections – a characteristic of UK politics that has been going on for more than a quarter of a century. They, and particularly their leader David Cameron, invested a huge amount in Ealing Southall and got almost no return.
The only reason Cameron has been able to steer his party in a different direction has been because he has been seen as an election winner. Once that perception goes he could be in for a testing time. By October/November the polls need to have got better.
What Cameron must be praying for is that he can avoid by elections in any Tory held seat.
The Lib Dems did reasonably well in terms of increasing their vote share and taking second place off the Tories in Sedgefield but by elections are their speciality. To make a bit of progress is one thing but they came nowhere near to victory in either seat.
There have been repeated murmurings against Ming Campbell and some in the party were suggesting that his leadership could be on the line if the party did badly. That did not happen and Ming is probably safe.
The by election betting. The big decline in Labour’s vote share in Sedgefield meant that those who took up the suggestions here to bet on them getting less than their 2005 share have done well. This market opened with the price at 6/4. It dropped to 6/5 and then progressively tightened. Amazingly it was still available yesterday afternoon at 1/2.
As was said repeatedly here this looked like free money throughout and I hope many PBers got on. It certainly meant that I came out of the day ahead.
The other big PB gamble, the bet on Labour losing a by election before one of a number of possible events happen remains in place. This was recommended by site users when the price was 10/1.