Tomorrow’s three by-elections — the 11th, 12th and 13th since the general election — should have been three easy Labour victories. They are defending majorities of 16,481 in Croydon North, 10,462 in Rotherham and 8,689 in Middlesbrough. And certainly neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats — second and third in all three seats in 2010 — look capable of overturning them.
But Labour are not looking as comfortable as they’d hoped. In both Croydon North and Rotherham, they’ve come under threat from Respect, raising the possibility that we’ll see a repeat of the ‘Bradford Spring’ that saw George Galloway return to the Commons with 56 per cent of the vote in Bradford West in March. Labour are still the clear favourites in all three constituencies, but Ladbrokes have Respect at 4/1 to win in Croydon North, and 6/1 in Rotherham.
And what about the Tories? Will they manage second in any of the seats? In Rotherham and Croydon, some combination of Respect, the Liberal Democrats, Ukip, and (in Rotherham) the English Democrats might even push them down to fourth or lower. That’d give the Tories their worst by-election result of this parliament: so far, they have not finished lower than third.