05/03/2013 19:57 GMT | Updated 31/03/2013 12:19 BST

Did The Grant Shapps By-Election Curse Ruin Eastleigh And Corby For The Conservatives?

Is the Conservative Party chairman cursed?

In the wake of the Tory meltdown in Eastleigh, a sacrificial by-election bovine was needed as angry Conservatives from the prime minister downwards asked: "What the hell just happened?"

But who would it be? "Knives are out for Baroness Warsi, the former Tory party chairwoman, for not doing more to build up the Tory campaign in Eastleigh as soon as Chris Huhne was charged with perverting the course of justice," reported the Evening Standard on Tuesday.

But Warsi left Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) six months ago and so some Conservatives are pointing the finger at the current party chair, Grant Shapps. The Welwyn Hatfield MP seems to have a pretty poor record when it comes to winning by-elections for the Tories.

"Where is my victory?"

Appointed by David Cameron as the party's vice-chairman for campaigns in 2005, Shapps' first by-election test was in Bromley and Chislehurst the following year, in May 2006.

He managed to shrink a Tory majority of 13,342 in 2005 to just 633.


Next up was Ealing Southall in July 2007.

The Tories stayed stuck in third place, adding just a single percentage point to their 2005 vote share - a result understatedly described as "a bit of a flop" after they lost to a Labour Party still mired in Iraq and in the midst of a tumultuous leadership change.

Shapps was then appointed shadow housing minister - and you'll never guess what happened next.

The Tories won Crewe and Nantwich from Labour in a 2008 by-election and then gained Norwich North, also from Labour, in a 2009 by-election.

In September 2012, in Cameron's first cabinet reshuffle, Shapps was promoted to the post of Conservative chairman, replacing Warsi, and (re)taking charge of the party's by-election campaigns.

And in November, with the Welwyn Hatfield MP back in the saddle, the Tories lost Corby to Labour. Their vote was slashed from 42.6% to 26.6%.

Then, last Friday, they failed to take Eastleigh - one of their top 20 target seats - dropping to third place behind the scandal-plagued Lib Dems and, humiliatingly, the UK Independence Party.

As a disgruntled Tory source told the Huffington Post UK: "It looks like the best way for our party to win a by-election is to keep Grant Shapps far away from it."

So can the Conservative Party tackle the curse of Shapps?

Well, the chairman himself could always try changing his name.... to Michael Green perhaps?