As the General Election gets closer the number of Council by-elections will fizzle out. It makes sense to hold them on May 7th to avoid extra expense. None took place yesterday but we do have four that I know of next week.

After that it looks pretty clear until we can expect to have dozens of Council by-elections coinciding with the General Election (and the scheduled council elections) on May 7th.

However there is still some news from the Press Association which is mildly encouraging. Their analysis of the results, extrapolated to give an indication of national performance, has the Conservatives ahead for the third month running:

Calculations based on a small sample of four comparable contests during February suggest a 3.7 per cent projected Conservative margin over Labour.

However, this is short of both the figure Tories would need for an overall general election majority or just to remain on their existing number of Commons seats.

Their lead this month owed much to a huge swing in a Shropshire contest which swamped smaller Labour margins calculated for the other three comparable by-elections.

These include one from a ward in the bellwether Harlow constituency, where Labour benefited the most from a UKIP slump.

UKIP averaged 18.4 per cent in the four seats it fought.

So slightly better for the Conservatives than most of the opinion polls.