This is just about the only positive 'spin' that Labour can put on it. At least they did manage to beat Bananaman Owen, even if it was a damn close run thing. What a disaster for the Labour Party was yesterday's Henley By-election. And even more of a disaster for Gordon Brown on the first anniversary of his assuming the Premiership. The obvious question. Are Labour really going to carry on standing by this man, as the voters heap such humiliating judgements on his leadership?
Tories win in Henley is no big deal, but its worth looking at the figures. To a large extent, the Conservative vote is a side issue, though it was a plus that it went up 3.46% to 57%. The Lib Dem vote was a bit more significant, in that it hardly advanced at all (1.84%) - which must have come as a huge disappointment to Stephen Kearney and Nick Clegg, bearing in mind the Labour meltdown. Labour voters are simply not switching to the Lib Dems any more.
But third up were the Greens, and then the BNP, which is itself a story. Labour fell over 11% to just 3% of the vote. Now no-one would pretend that Labour were in with a shout of winning, but this result is a disaster on an epic scale. Its even worse than the opinion poll story, and that is a 'Novel from Hell' at the moment. Of course its possible that Gordon Brown can turn the whole thing around, but we've now had over six months of a steadily deteriorating position for Labour. I really do think there must be a chance that if things don't improve by the conference season, there will begin a groundswell of sympathy for a change of captain - and a General Election next June.