The results have just come in from yesterday’s Norwich North by-election, where the Conservatives have claimed a major (if expected) coup, winning the previously safe Labour seat with a resounding majority of 7,348. Chloe Smith will become Parliament’s youngest MP when she takes her seat in the House of Commons after the summer.
The by-election, brought about by Ian Gibson MP’s resignation over the expenses scandal, saw Labour hold off the Lib Dem challenge to come second – a small, but important, consolation for the governing party. UKIP leapfrogged the Greens into fourth place. Turnout was low at 45%, reflecting the current ‘anti-politics’ mood in the country.
The swing towards the Tories of around 16%, if replicated in the forthcoming general election, would see a whopping Conservative majority in Parliament of over 200 seats.
Today’s result is the latest in a long string of political embarrassments for Gordon Brown, and his fifth by-election defeat since becoming PM. David Cameron, who has been very visible in the campaign, will treat today as a personal victory, and is likely to renew his calls for an early general election.
However, expect to hear a variety of explanations for the result throughout the afternoon. Some will be relatively credible (Labour voters staying at home in protest at the way Dr Gibson was treated by the party), while we may be exposed to the odd lame excuse (the Labour candidate’s suspected swine flu would not have had a particularly significant impact on the result).
The Norwich North result will also feed into the return of the ‘Will Gordon go?’ media narrative, which will build through the summer ahead of Labour Party Conference. While the result hardly represents a final nail in the coffin for this seemingly indestructible PM, it certainly won’t have helped his positioning with his many colleagues who view him as an electoral liability.