Having been knocked back into third place in Eastleigh behind the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, how will the Conservatives react? Despite attempts to spin the line that the “coalition was able to retain the seat,” the manner of the defeat will be hard to stomach. Tory dismay will be compounded by the Liberal Democrats’ ability to hold on to Eastleigh despite suffering from the impact of two scandals.
The weekend will bring the inevitable speculation about David Cameron’s leadership, although there is not likely to be a serious challenge yet. YouGov polls show Labour on 43 per cent and the Conservatives on 32 per cent—but this poor position is tempered by Cameron’s approval rating of 34 per cent as opposed to Ed Miliband on 22 per cent.
There will be infuriated calls from the Tory base, as well as commentators and backbenchers, for the party to veer rightwards. There are elements within the party that are disillusioned with Cameron—the gay marriage vote, Europe, talk of a mansion tax and a failure to get a grip on the economy have left Tories wondering just how blue he really is.