Last night’s by-election results may produce further ammunition to those Labour ‘greybeards’ who are urging Gordon Brown to be cautious about an autumn General Election. We listed other risk factors on Monday.
On the basis of yesterday’s results the Conservatives would have a 6.2% lead over Labour – a very different picture to the national opinion polls which actually suggest a 5.8% Labour lead (according to ConservativeHome’s Poll of Polls).
The Conservatives won a seat from Labour on Sunderland council with a 3.7% swing. In a Kent County Council by-election there was a 5.5% swing to the Conservatives although Labour held a seat on Dover District Council.
Perhaps the most encouraging result came in Cheshire. A 6.5% swing from Labour to the Conservatives ensured that Eleanor Johnson was elected and that the County remains in Tory control. The Gowy seat includes three important polling districts in the target Tory seat of Chester; Christleton, Littleton and Guilden Sutton.
More encouraging for me is the main story on the front page of The Telegraph: David Cameron orders shift to core Tory values.
An interview with George Osborne indicates that the party will ditch large parts of the Gummer-Goldsmith report. There’ll be no charges for supermarket parking. No taxes on a second short annual flight. There may even be a promise to reform inheritance tax.
I’m also expecting stronger statements on immigration. Shadow Immigration Damian Green was on the Today programme this morning and the front page of The Mail shouts: Two million more migrants in just a decade. Mr Green is quoted in that story saying: "This rips apart the Government’s previous complacent assumptions about net immigration." I hope we’ll also see Tory reluctance to talk about immigration ripped up in Blackpool, too.
A ConservativeHome poll of Tory members – due to be published tomorrow – will spell out what the grassroots would like the leadership to do next.
11am: Caroline Spelman comments: "“This set of results is very encouraging and shows that throughout the country more and more people are turning away from Labour and towards the Conservatives. Labour should be very worried that in a week when Gordon Brown has dominated the news, the Conservatives have made a crucial gain from Labour in the North and achieved a swing in three marginal seats which would mean three strong Conservative gains in a general election. After a week in which Labour hasn’t been out of the news there have been swings to the Conservatives from North to South. People want change and they want to fix our broken society. After ten years of Labour it is clear that Gordon Brown cannot be the change the country needs.”