The Telegraph points out that the week before polling "the Cameron high command insisted the party was on course for victory" in Ealing. Perhaps this misplaced confidence is the source of David Cameron’s woes today. Many people were led to believe that victory was possible, even likely, so our third place was a bitter, and unexpected, disappointment.
The Daily Mail and Simon Heffer in the Telegraph blame CCHQ’s selection of Tony Lit, Heffer saying "Short of being a lesbian heading a one-parent family, Tony Lit, the very defeated candidate in the Ealing by-election, had everything Dave has always wanted for "his" Conservatives."
Other papers were focussing on concerns over the direction of Project Cameron. The Telegraph leader is supportive of "changes in the Conservative Party that will enhance its prospects of getting elected" but warns "rebranding and re-energising should not mean neglecting to oppose bad policies." It says:
"The party urgently needs to reset its co-ordinates, even at the price of fierce internal debate; and the only person who can do that is its leader. The instinct that told Mr Cameron – correctly – that the Tories were projecting themselves to the nation as moralistic bigots should now inform him that they are coming across as soft and complacent, just at a time when we are attracted to Mr Brown for his lack of glib style."
This theme is picked up by Matthew Parris in the Times who argues, as ConservativeHome has done, for the need for authenticity. We must hope that the "instinct" that the Telegraph refers to will lead David Cameron in this direction.
For those who were thinking that the by-elections were only bad news for us Martin Kettle in the Guardian suggests Brown will be paying particularly close attention to the Sedgefield result which showed that the Labour vote is not (yet) coming home.