Listening to Tory ministers trying to explain away last night’s devastating by-election defeats brought to mind the delusional Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Lost a 25,000 majority in Mid Bedfordshire? “Tis but a scratch.”
A 20,000 majority overturned in Tamworth? “I’ve had worse.”
Energy minister Andrew Bowie, pulling the graveyard shift on Sky News, insisted the results “weren’t gigantic by-election defeats”.
His frontbench colleague Maria Caulfield told the same channel that the huge Tory-to-Labour swings were simply “statistical” rather than a massive vote of no confidence in the government.
And Tory chairman Greg Hands, again on Sky, said that the voters he met on the doorstep “were happy with the job Rishi Sunak is doing as prime minister”. Which doesn’t explain why they expressed that satisfaction by voting Labour.
A leaked copy of the Tories’ post-defeat messaging, seen by HuffPost UK, confirmed the party’s exit from the reality-based community.
“The experience of the campaign trail tell us that people are not buying Keir Starmer’s approach of taking the easy way out on every big issue,” it read.
“So, while these may be difficult results, it is clear that we have to maintain our focus on people’s immediate priorities whilst taking long-term decisions which will lead to the change this country needs.”
But while Tory HQ was still in the denial stage of grief, other more sensible Conservatives acknowledges the mess that party finds itself in.
One senior insider said: “We are lost, in a big way. We can’t spin this in any other way than complete meltdown.”
Speaking on his Political Currency podcast, former chancellor George Osborne said losing both seats last night “is a political earthquake and could mean armageddon for the Tories”.
He is right. If there was any doubt before, the by-elections results simply confirmed what the opinion polls have been telling us all for the past year - the next election, whenever it comes, is Labour’s to lose.