There’s no disguising the fact that last night’s result was a very disappointing one for Conservatives.
There were three small crumbs of comfort.
First, the poor performance of Labour, our only realistic rivals in terms of winning the next Election. The opinion polls say Labour are doing 12 or 13 percentage points better than they did at the last Election, but on the ground in Eastleigh they increased their share of the vote by just 0.22 per cent. In the 1994 Eastleigh by-election, held before Tony Blair was elected Leader, Labour came second with 27.6% of the vote. Yesterday, they managed fourth place with just 9.8% of the vote, suggesting - as do local government by-election results week in week out - that their opinion poll lead is soft and that they will struggle to win their target seats, particularly in the South.