The statistic that people will have heard endlessly in recent weeks is that no governing party has gained a seat in a by-election since Angela Rumbold nabbed the Merton Borough’s Mitcham and Morden against a split opposition during the Falklands war in 1982.
Given that, on the rare occasions that it’s happened, there’s either been a material shakeup of parties or candidates or a wafer-thin majority in the first place (or Tony Benn being disqualified), I have a better stat.
No governing party has gained an opposition seat with more than a 3 per cent majority, absent a defecting incumbent, disqualified winner or a major change in the set of parties contesting the seat, in any by-election since Worcester in 1878.
My latest analysis has more on that, and a summary of the records that would go if Copeland really does turn Blue.
The FT has had a good stab at reading the tea leaves, quoting various Labour sources with varying opinions. Its report also highlights the forecasts of some very bad weather for polling day. Whether the weather affects turnout (and if so how) is another matter (though probably less than commonly assumed).
In Stoke the reports are mostly that things seem to be going Labour’s way. That contest looks like producing a fascinating result regardless of the order. Interestingly, the Telegraph front page has a story entitled “Stay out of Stoke, Putin told”. I’m not sure he was really planning to visit, but these days you never know…
That’s all for this morning, but tonight from 8pm (or shortly after) after I’ll be joining Bill White and Basil McCrea at LucidTalk to discuss the by-elections in a live broadcast. I’ll stream it live through my Facebook page and possibly elsewhere too.