All parties are going to be a lot more careful in Witney
Partly because far fewer of their MPs have died in office the Tories have not faced many by-elections since returning to power in 2010. They lost to UKIP in Clacton and Rochester but held on in June 2014 in Newark.
The latter, quite amazingly, was the first time that the Tories had successfully defended a Westminster by-election while in office since 1988. After their humiliating third place in the May 2014 Euros the Tories threw everything into the defence of Newark the following month. The last thing they wanted was an outcome that would do anything other than impede UKIP’s momentum. Farage’s party had to be stopped.
As was reported on by Michael Crick in a series of C4 News reports earlier in the year there were serious questions as to whether the Tories had kept within the £100k by-election expenses limit in the seat. I understand that his points about Newark are still being looked into by the Electoral Commission.
So Witney on October 22nd is the first CON defence since the EC investigation into this and other alleged expenditure irregularities. What it means, I’d suggest is that this is going to be harder to defend. They certainly can’t ship activists to the constituency and put them up in hotels. Also things they’ll have to be careful over things like paying for delivery or hiring professional phone canvassers.
Will it have an impact? My guess is that all parties will feel constrained. On the face of it Cameron majority from GE2015 is so large that shouldn’t impact on the outcome – but who knows?