One week ago, that great British tradition of by-election upsets was upheld. The Lib Dem victory in Richmond Park not only restored their reputation as the ultimate mid-term protest party and by-election specialists, but signaled a potentially big change in our political landscape since Brexit. Tomorrow, we will get another chance to test the new waters in a very different seat.
Sleaford and North Hykeham has never, to my knowledge, made electoral headlines. It is so safe a Conservative seat that, even when the party endured catastrophic defeat in the 1997 Blair landslide, they won by 5,000 votes. Last year Stephen Phillips was returned with a mere 24,000 majority.
On those bare numbers, even the 1.1 odds about a Conservative win would appear to understate their chances. However after a run that has seen Remain and Hillary Clinton beaten after being matched at even shorter odds, then Zac Goldsmith defeated last week from odds around 1.33, who would dare back a short-odds favourite in a political market?
Before assuming a repeat of last week’s drama, first consider the fundamental differences between this seat and Richmond Park. Unlike that heavily pro-Remain, outer-London seat, the result in this rural Lincolnshire constituency was a resounding victory for Brexit, by 62-38. A Lib Dem victory here would be totally miraculous.