The Chancellor went to Newport, a stone's throw from the Islwyn constituency where the party's by-election candidate, Robert Buckland, scraped 913 votes. Labour's Don Touhig romped home with 16,030 votes, 13,097 ahead of his nearest rival. Mr Touhig takes over from Neil Kinnock, who left to be EC transport commissioner.
Mr Buckland polled only 400 votes more than Screaming Lord Sutch and lost his deposit. When the result was declared at Pontllanfraith the Tory candidate was ashen-faced, looking for all the world like a man abandoned by his tribe.
In the final throes of the campaign, that certainly seemed to be the case. For while John Prescott, Paddy Ashdown and a brace of Plaid Cymru MPs converged for the ritual final heave, Mr Buckland was virtually left in glorious isolation; the final Tory press conference was notable for the "empty chair syndrome" - not even one of Wales' six Tory MPs turned up to warm the vacant seat.
Mr Buckland, a 26-year-old barrister, displayed yesterday a dogged loyalty which John Major might wish some of his Cabinet to copy. "There are ebbs and flows in politics. When the time comes it will turn in our direction," he said.
nBy-election results: Don Touhig (Labour) 16,030; Jocelyn Davies (Plaid Cymru) 2,933; John Bushell (Lib-Dem) 2,448; Robert Buckland (Conservative) 913; Lord Sutch (Loony) 506; Hugh Hughes (UK Independent) 289; Timothy Rees (Natural Law) 47. Labour majority: 13,097. Turnout: 45.3%.Reuse content