...is the sound of Gordon Brown beating his head repeatedly against the walls of No 10. You could almost forgive the guy deciding that it's not worth the candle and giving up, going away to do good things at the World Bank.
Coming fifth in the Henley by-election is just the latest in a series of disasters for Brown and the Labour Party. It's utterly unprecedented for any governing party to slip as low as fifth in any parliamentary by-election in Great Britain (the Tories apparently came fifth in North Down in the 1980s, but the special circumstances of Northern Ireland explain that one). We now have the situation where Labour is barely four times as popular as the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Henley was also an exceptional result for the Tories and a mediocre one for my own party. This was a by-election caused by a popular Tory MP going off to do something else, which is usually difficult to defend. The Tories selected a candidate who had some baggage as a result of being part of the ruling group on Oxfordshire County Council. The Lib Dems had, by all accounts, a very strong candidate and the by-election machine cranked into full gear. Yet the Tories managed to increase their share of the vote and the Lib Dems only just went up. This indicates what a strong wave the Tories are running at the moment.
But good though the result was for the Tories, the fact that they held a safe seat is not going to be remembered as long as yet another humiliation for Gordon Brown. There must be dozens of Labour MPs who will be getting very, very nervous.
Medieval freedom of information
3 days ago