The Lib Dem’s once fearsome by-election machine stalled in the face of the blue tide sweeping the South East of England. They will be horrified at their inability to make real progress in this kind of constituency with, objectively, a better campaigner as their candidate. The truth is that the detoxification of Cameron’s “Liberal” Conservatives means that the anti-Brown swing vote is as likely, or even more likely, to go to the Tories than the Lib Dems. That is a terrifying prospect for Lib Dem MPs. The Tory vote went up despite the loss of the charismatic Boris. Currently Tories could pin a blue rosette on a donkey and win.
There are by-election losses and there are by-election losses, Labour coming fifth behind the BNP and Greens made losing their deposit that much worse. Backbench MPs will be studying Charles Clarke’s doomsday list (download here) a little more intensely. They will be looking at the crumbling Gordon and wondering to themselves how the party might fare without the millstone of a voter repelling weirdo up front.
UPDATE : A co-conspirator points out that Chris Rennard’s post match spin is ambiguous: