Yesterday was never going to be a cheerful first anniversary for the Prime Minister, but the results of the Boris Johnson memorial by-election must have made it a good deal worse. For Labour to come third in a true-blue constituency like Henley would be forgivable; to come fourth, after the Greens, would smack of carelessness. But to come fifth, behind the BNP and only just before UKIP, is little short of a catastrophe.
It is not as though the turnout were so low as to suggest that only extreme loyalists and fanatics bestirred themselves to vote. Just over 50 per cent is creditable for a by-election in an eminently safe seat. This lamentable result suggests rather that even diehard Labour voters cast around for reasons to support almost anyone else. No wonder the party is not fielding a candidate against David Davis. The mountain Gordon Brown has to climb has never looked more forbidding than it does today.