The result in Eastleigh may be a relief to the Lib Dems, but it is still a very bad result. How can losing more than 14% share of the vote be anything else? They may have won but, as the bleary eyed will have heard Prof John Curtice say after the announcement, it was with a lower share than anyone has won a by-election since the war. At the next general election, when Eastleigh voters wil be less minded to protest at the government and more focused on who should be in government, the Tories may well regain Eastleigh, as well as a number of other Tory/Lib Dem marginals – in line with the current national polls.
For the Tories the disaster is not so much losing, nor even coming third. After all, in the Mayoral election in Liverpool, a city in which they were in a majority i the Sixties, they came 7th. It is that they were beaten by UKIP. It is that the pressure on the Tory leadership to move rightwards will become relentless. That’s a no-win for Cameron, whatever he does.
Of course it is bad for Labour too, in spite of the fact that, unlike the Tories and Lib Dems, we increased our share of the vote (just about). The 2010 result had been bad. We failed to make any kind of breakthrough in the South; we failed to become ny sort of repository for protest. It’s not a disaster by any means, neither for Labour nor for Ed, because it doesn’t mean we can’t win marginals in the South, but it is a major disappointment.
And finally, for those contemplating a new Left party, note the vote for TUSC: 62 (0.15%), luckily 13th and not last, but still just random voters really.
The full result was:
Mike Thornton (LD) 13,342 (32.06%, -14.48%)
Diane James (UKIP) 11,571 (27.80%, +24.20%)
Maria Hutchings (Con) 10,559 (25.37%, -13.96%)
John O’Farrell (Lab) 4,088 (9.82%, +0.22%)
Danny Stupple (Ind) 768 (1.85%, +1.56%)
Dr Iain Maclennan (NHA) 392 (0.94%)
Ray Hall (Beer) 235 (0.56%)
Kevin Milburn (Christian) 163 (0.39%)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 136 (0.33%)
Jim Duggan (Peace) 128 (0.31%)
David Bishop (Elvis) 72 (0.17%)
Michael Walters (Eng Dem) 70 (0.17%, -0.30%)
Daz Procter (TUSC) 62 (0.15%)
Colin Bex (Wessex Reg) 30 (0.07%)
Liberal Democrat majority: 1,771 (4.26%)