Standing aside in Batley and Spen like the other parties, Witney was the contest to prove their flush isn't entirely busted. Instead their slice of the vote fell by more than half, were beaten by the Greens, and the deposit forfeit. Please be patient while my crocodile cries me a river. Instead, the LibDems surged past Labour and grabbed the coveted second place slot. Dave's majority fell by 15 points, but with another 15 separating the newly anointed Robert Courts from the yellow party I don't think he'll be getting to twitchy about the size of his majority. Still, could ongoing political instability now manifest itself as an apparent return to how things used to be before the purples pooped the party?
There are a couple of emergent trends that say ... possibly. We know UKIP's all over bar the shouting, but their failure cannot explain, in this instance, an insurgent LibDem vote in a super safe Tory seat. The LibDems have effectively acquired a second wind since the referendum. Building on creditable local council by-election performances over the last year, these last four months see them up 19 seats, and they're taking seats from everyone though, it has to be said, mainly the Tories. There could be a couple of things going on. Firstly, as the die hard remainer party they might be attracting some who are wedded to the European Union and don't presently find Labour attractive for all the usual reasons. But more important is Theresa May's authoritarianism, Wrexitism, and anti-immigrant posturing. Dave was awful, but he could occasionally affect the pose of a liberal Tory well. Say what you like about the man, but he was no racist and didn't play fast and loose with immigration in the same way May is doing. Well, that has consequences, and so for a chunk of Tory support the LibDems are a fair option. Not that May is entirely bothered seeing as she's cultivating the kipper and non-Labour voting sections of the working class to the exclusion of all else. If this dynamic persists, it could well mean the LibDems might take back the seats grabbed by the Tories. What will happen in Richmond Park should Zac Goldsmith resign over Heathrow is set to be interesting.
Turning to Batley and Spen, the by-election we should never have had to have, there was never any question of Tracy Brabin not holding the seat for Labour. With the other main parties standing aside, our vote share increased by almost 43 points and none of her opponents - the flotsam and jetsam of a shattered far right - went home with their deposits. The by-election, however, comes with a warning. Between them the English Democrats, BNP, Liberty GB, and NF pulled together 8.9% of the vote. Ten per cent if you include the idiotic 'Anti-Corbyn' standing under 'English Independence'. Their collective vote may well have been swelled by the absence of any other party, but the fact that one in ten was prepared to vote for a racist after their previous MP was murdered by a member of the far right is deeply, deeply troubling. If UKIP are going to disappear up their own backsides, well, the Liberal Democrats might not be the only ones to acquire newly-found support.