Two by-elections were lost, one to the Tories, but the biggest lesson of the last extraordinary few hours appears to be the swings against Rishi Shank’s party: they suggest the Conservatives are about to lose No. 10 at the next election.
This does not mean that the situation is not salvageable. But it will be difficult.
Two large Tory majorities were overturned but they hold on to Johnson’s former seat. Long live the by-elections
The result of a single by-election cannot be used to predict the outcome of next year’s poll, possibly next fall.
And there are plenty of nuances and questions for the three main party leaders.
And it’s too early to say whether Johnny Mercer was unwise. Compare the new Labor MP for Selby to a member of The Inbetweeners. Because of his youth.
But it is worth focusing on the overall picture.
All three by-election results show a shift away from the Conservatives: 6.7% for Labor in Uxbridge, 23.7% for Labor in Selby and 29% for the Liberal Democrats in Frome in Somerset.
All three mean Rishi Singh will no longer be in Number 10: it would take just a 3.2% swing for the Tories to lose their majority and – given the lack of potential coalition partners in Parliament – handing the keys to Downing Street to Labour.
Even Labour’s weakest result in Oxbridge puts Labor within a 7% swing, which would mean Sir Keir Starmer’s party the largest party in a hung parliament.
Sir Kerr would have to swing 12% from the Tories to Labor to win an overall majority and thus govern without the support of MPs from other parties.
So it is for the Tories to turn the supertanker of unpopularity around, which the Prime Minister’s supporters believe is possible if we see more positive economic data and the party behaves.
But the British people never give clean results, and the verdict delivered by the constituencies carried a lot of weight.
In Selby and Anstey, Labour’s results broke records – it saw Labor overturn the biggest Tory majority since the Second World War, and the party is clearly delighted.
However, Labour’s victory was achieved by more than 20,000 Tory voters at home. The Labor vote rose just a touch.
But come next year, will 20,000 return to the Tories, go to Labor or stay at home? This question and similar questions will determine the future of British politics.
Meanwhile, Labour’s result in Uxbridge will be seen as a disappointment by many in the party, but not a disaster.
The margin of defeat was small, and there was still a large enough swing from the Tories to Labor to see the Tories defeated in Downing Street if a general election were to be held.
Indeed it is a curiosity in this election that Labor did not more strongly challenge the Tories’ claim that they were looking to lose all three seats, as losing one was always a distinct possibility.
The bigger question will be how much this motivates the Tories to step up their attacks on Labour’s Green policy – and whether Labor begins to back away from its previous positions – as it appears to be doing on the ULEZ congestion charge.
The Lib Dems eventually won a landslide victory in Somerton and Frome in the South West, taking back the seat held by David Heath but lost in 2015 at the end of five years of coalition government which saw the Lib Dems in power.
But the Lib Dems are brilliant at pouring resources into by-elections – will they be able to repeat such results when resources are spread more thinly?
Labour’s failure to capture Uxbridge is probably enough to prevent open panic in the Tory party. But for Mr Sink, the picture remains the same.