Last night's by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton have proved disastrous for the Tories. Labour took Wakefield by 4,925 votes – a swing of almost 13 per cent. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile put another dent in the ‘blue wall’ taking Tiverton by 6,144 and achieving a massive 30 per cent swing.
The Tiverton and Honiton result highlights the trouble Boris’s government finds itself in. The seat has been Conservative – and with a large majority – since its creation in 1997. But even before that seats in the area had been Tory since Queen Victoria was on the throne.
Turnout was well below general election levels. In Wakefield, just 39 per cent bothered to vote – the lowest ever in the seat. In Tiverton and Honiton it was 52 per cent – also the lowest since the seat's creation. It’s never had a turnout below 69 per cent before.
It looks as though tactical voting played a key part. With Lib Dem voters lending their ballots to Labour in Wakefield and Labour returning the favour in Tiverton and Honiton.
Despite the results, Labour's overall poll lead is not huge. The Spectator’s poll tracker puts it at just seven percentage points. A single-digit poll deficit is not bad for a government well into its midterm. One recent poll even puts Boris ahead of Keir Starmer on who would make the best Prime Minister.
But as James Forsyth points out in his Coffee House piece this morning the polling average for a possible 'left bloc' is gaining momentum. Taken together, Labour the Lib Dems, Greens and the SNP are polling above 60 per cent.