Readers, the results of yesterday's local by-elections are as follows (they were only two, and both had a Green Party candidate, I am pleased to say):
Cornwall UA, Megavissey: Conservative 348 (32.2%, +8.2%), UKIP 281 (26.0%, -1.6%), Labour 204 (18.9%, -10.8%), Liberal Democrat 197 (18.2%, +4.3%), Green 50 (4.6%, -0.1%).
Rugby BC, Bilton: Conservative 668 (42.0%, -12.2%), UKIP 325 (20.4%), Liberal Democrat 280 (17.2%, +8.1%), Labour 212 (13.3%, -8.1%), Independent 60 (3.8%), Green 37 (2.3%, -7.7%), TUSC 10 (0.6%, -4.3%).
A pretty poor night for the left of Britain-our vote share held up in Megavissey but the Conservatives managed to win it. Cornish local elections have become very volatile recently, with Megavissey having been effectively a four-way marginal since Labour gained it from the Conservatives in 2013. Bilton, an affluent suburb of Rugby, sadly proved worse for us, and especially the Socialists, despite our previous good showing in a safely Conservative ward.
Nevertheless, there has been some good news for us recently.
First of all, there were some hustings last night at St. George's Hotel, Rochester (sitting on the borders between the constituencies of Rochester & Strood and Chatham & Aylesford) for the Rochester & Strood by-election, where voters will go to the polls in just 13 days' time from now. I am pleased to say our candidate, Clive Gregory, managed to put in a good performance, remain focused, and he used positive thinking and correctly blamed bankers for Britain's problems. Meanwhile, the Labour and Conservative candidates, Naushabah Khan and Kelly Tolhurst, often dug at each other and on immigration just pandered to the right-wing mainstream media as expected (Kelly more so). There was also not really a significant difference between their manifestos, either. The Lib Dem candidate, Geoff Juby, looked somewhat downcast, but he was more respectful, in all honesty, and less occupied with negative campaigning than I expected (in the past, Liberal Democrat candidates in by-elections have been notorious for printing leaflets which focus more on attacking a Labour/Conservative candidate rather than real policies). As for UKIP's Mark Reckless-he did not even bother to turn up for the hustings; his non-appearance, and lame excuse for not showing up, was rightly greeted with boos and cries of 'Shame!' from the audience.
Despite only appearing as guests, two other candidates did get invited to speak briefly (there was not room or time to accommodate all 13 by-election candidates within the hustings) at the end. Mike Barker, an independent, dressed in a Father Christmas costume (even though we have not reached Christmas time yet!) was mainly focused on the issue of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, a World War II ship, lying in the River Medway with unexploded bombs, but did not speak on other important issues also affecting Rochester & Strood. Nick Long, on behalf of People Before Profit, spoke mainly about extortionate house prices and rents, and the effects this was having on the large commuter population of this constituency given how high rail fares are. I hoped to ask the candidates a question about bringing the railways back into public hands or about TTIP, but sadly this topic did not come up in the hustings.
On a final note, I am pleased to say that Caroline Lucas has been awarded 'MP of the year' once again, and that you should tune in to BBC1 tonight at 9pm to see her appearance on 'Have I Got News For You?'