Gordon Brown has a new MP… a Liberal Democrat MP. A swing of 16% gives the scandal-struck third party its 63rd parliamentary seat. It is a huge blow to the Chancellor. He actively intervened in the by-election campaign but was unable to prevent anger at the Iraq war from helping to defeat the Labour candidate.
The result also ends a poor week for David Cameron. Tony Blair got the better of the Tory leader at this week’s PMQs and Mr Cameron’s big strategy to destroy the LibDems has been set back by this result. The Times:
"The poor Tory showing is an embarrassment for David Cameron, the Conservative leader, who made a direct appeal to Liberal Democrats in the constituency to come over to the Conservatives, claiming that he was a “liberal Conservative” and that his party now agreed with the Lib Dems on Iraq. That apparent gaffe was exploited to the full by Tony Blair in the Commons but he may well have helped the Lib Dem cause."
The Tory vote was squeezed by the LibDems as they pushed past the Labour candidate but the fall in Tory support from over 10% to under 8% is a reminder of the long, hard road that still lies before the Conservative Party.