The size of the anti-Labour swing almost matches that achieved by the Tories last year in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.
Well, no. True, the 16.5% swing in Norwich compares to the 17.5% in Crewe, but those simple numbers conceal a big difference.
In Crewe and Nantwich last May, the Labour vote fell by 18.2% and the Tory vote rose by 16.9% - clearly a large shift from one to the other. But in Norwich, while the Labour vote collapsed by 26.7%, the Tory vote rose by the far less impressive 6.3% - the anti-Labour vote splintered, with UKIP and the Greens each putting on more votes than did the Tories.
But none of that detracts from the facts that Labour looks doomed, that the Tories look to be on for a comfortable general election win, and that congratulations are due to Chloe Smith, at 27 the new ‘Baby of the House’. I’m all for more younger MPs (although I’m less keen on more Tory MPs).
There seems to be no new momentum against Gordon Brown within the Labour Party, so things look likely to carry on much as they are. Perhaps the only good thing for Labour to come out of this byelection is that the strategy of shrieking ‘Tory cuts!’ has been shown to be ineffective.
(In the same way, Crewe and Nantwich tested to destruction the ‘Tory toffs!’ strategy, although frankly 30 seconds’ thought would have done the same.)
So, while Labour goes from weakness to weakness, the Tories only did passably well. But passable is enough to, well, pass. The Times gets it pretty much right:
The electorate, Labour feels certain, is unsure about the Conservative Party. This intuition is correct. It is also irrelevant so long as Labour itself is quite as unpopular as it is.