5 March 2011


Labour's decisive victory in the Barnsley Central by-election is excellent news, if only because it seems to show that (a year too late) the party has got over the worst of the MPs' expenses scandal. The seat was one of Labour's safest, but the cause of the by-election – MP Eric Illsley's conviction for fiddling the taxpayer – might just have made the by-election a tricky one.

The Lib Dems' dire performance, on the other hand, is undoubtedly cause for Schadenfreude but hardly cause for celebration: it is not a good sign when even the most opportunist centre party is outpolled both by the fascists of the BNP and the xenophobic populists of UKIP. I'm not panicking yet, but – along with recent poll data suggesting that there is a potentially massive constituency for a anti-immigrant party in Britain – the Barnsley result suggests that the far right might well be a major beneficiary if the coalition's current troubles continue.

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