The well-heeled of Kensington vote with their feet to make no party really happy

FOR MICHAEL PORTILLO the result was little short of perfect. But for Mr Hague, the outcome was yet another disappointment. Mr Portillo's re-entry into Westminster politics has predictably raised large questions about the future of his party.

He needed to show that his personal past was not a liability. This he did by increasing his party's share of the vote by 2.8 per cent compared with the 1997 general election.

Second only to the 7.5 per cent rise enjoyed by the Tories two years ago in Uxbridge, this was enough to show that he could win by-election votes as effectively as any other Tory - despite the backdrop of the Archer and Ashcroft revelations. Mr Hague, in contrast, needed to demonstrate his party has a future. But the 4.4 per cent swing from Labour to Conservative will do little to persuade anyone he has a chance of winning the next general election. If repeated nationwide it would still leave Mr Blair with an overall parliamentary majority of about 80. It compares lamentably with the average mid-term by-election swing of 10 per cent in Tory-held seats when the party was last in opposition during the 1974-9 Labour government.

Mr Hague may be invulnerable to a leadership challenge this side of the next election. But after defeat he will not be. Now he faces the reality that the potential pretender to his throne has secured his return to Westminster with a safe seat and political reputation intact. Even this week a MORI poll showed that only half of Tory voters think that Mr Hague is the most capable figure to lead the Conservative Party. Nearly a third opted for Mr Portillo.

Mr Hague might be inclined to take satisfaction from the fact that both the pro-European Tories and the United Kingdom Independence Party saw their vote fall compared with June's European election. But, alas, this could simply indicate that when it comes to domestic elections, Europe cuts less ice with voters and is not quite the automatic vote winner that Mr Hague apparently believes.

The result will have done little, either, to assist the Tory leader's hopes of attracting a first-rank candidate to fill the hole left by Jeffrey Archer's departure. It seems the job of Tory candidate for London mayor has few prospects.

Reflected across London as a whole, the Kensington performance would leave the Conservatives nearly 10 points adrift of Labour. True, with Labour well short of half the vote, the outcome would depend on the second preferences of Liberal Democrat, Green and other voters cast under the new supplementary vote system. But the Tory candidate would need to win over 70 per cent of these to overturn such a deficit. A tall order.

But there is a warning for Labour in the Kensington result too. The six point fall in its support compares unfavourably with its success in holding its own or better in the two previous by-elections in Tory seats, Eddisbury and Beckenham. Doubtless its task was not made any easier by the plethora of candidates in Kensington.

But perhaps it was not helped either by the row about Mr Livingstone's mayoral candidacy. On this performance, a Labour mayoral victory is likely to be secured only with the aid of Lib Dem second preferences. And Labour are unlikely to have a majority in the new Greater London Assembly either. Even Mr Livingstone may find it useful to pursue cordial relations with the Lib Dems, just as the Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister have done before him.

John Curtice is deputy director, ESRC Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee