Further bad news this morning for Britain’s Conservative Party, with its failure to win a seat from the Liberal Democrats in the Cheadle by-election. (BBC report here.)

Cheadle is good middle-class territory in the southern suburbs of Manchester, and was the most marginal seat in the country in 2001, when the Lib Dems’ Patsy Calton won it from the Tories by 33 votes. She increased her majority in last May’s general election, but by then she was already dying of cancer, and without her personal vote the Tories had high hopes of winning it back. Instead, Lib Dem Mark Hunter won with a small swing in his favour and a majority of 3,657, while the Labour candidate lost his deposit.

It’s not clear what effect the result will have on the upcoming leadership contest to replace Michael Howard, but it may clue the Tories into the fact that they still have a fair way to go to return from the wilderness. The reports don’t disclose whether Australia’s own Lynton Crosby was on the Conservative campaign, but if so he has helped maintain a perfect record: the Tories have not won a by-election from the Liberals since 1924!

Peter Fray

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