For a government approaching what would normally be its midterm blues, the Conservatives had a good day at the polls on Thursday. The symbol of that was Hartlepool, only the fifth time the government has gained a seat from the opposition at a by-election since the war.
Even if Hartlepool was a one-off, Conservative gains in local elections in Leave-voting areas across the country, but especially in the north and Midlands, and the retention of the mayoralties of the West Midlands and Tees Valley were strong results. Both the BBC and Sky News estimated that the Conservatives were ahead of Labour in the national equivalent share of the vote.
This has prompted some crowing among cabinet ministers, who have taken to suggesting that Boris Johnson could serve as prime minister for longer than Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years “if he wants”, on the grounds that he has secured a “permanent” rejection of Labour by the voters.
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