The story of this by-election is not UKIP or indeed, our own third place. We are a party in government and it would have been extraordinary not to have been trounced. UKIP were the main outlet for anyone who wanted to protest. No, the real story is the Liberal Democrat win, a victory that happened at a time when they were facing considerable pressure both locally and nationally.
I was Conservative candidate for Westmorland and Lonsdale and I write from experience. Coming up to polling day, the view was that on a bad day I would lose by 6,000 and on a good day scrape a win with a majority of 1-2,000. We could tell it wasn’t going to be a good day from the GOTV feedback; ‘I normally vote Conservative but Tim has worked so hard’ was a very common response from once solid Conservative voters, ‘Tim’ being Tim Farron, my Liberal Democrat opponent and incumbent MP. In the end I was resoundingly beaten, with the Liberal majority 12,000+. As a local reporter asked: ‘how does it feel seeing a once safe Conservative seat become a safe Liberal seat?. Funnily enough, it didn’t feel that great.