Comment: Tories hope Salop shellacking will be wake up call for bumbling Boris
The truly horrendous result for the Tories in North Shropshire may well end up being a blessing in disguise for Boris Johnson's party.
Had the Conservatives held on to the seat they have dominated for the past 200 years it was entirely likely that the PM would continue to bumble along from one debacle to the next, without addressing the perilous position his administration is in.
But after a stunning 34 per cent swing to the Lib Dems, surely even this quasi-liberal, climate obsessed version of Mr Johnson can't fail to see the warning signs.
Maybe the shellacking in Salop will finally wake him from his slumber.
Two years ago Mr Johnson secured a huge Commons majority on the back of promises over delivering Brexit, levelling up and controlling Britain's borders.
Now he is failing at almost every turn, with the jubilant scenes of the last general election replaced with images of Downing Street toffs chortling over lockdown breaches while the rest of us suffer.
Mr Johnson is letting down voters and leaving his MPs on the front line to pick up the pieces.
To an increasing number of Tory backbenchers, he is fast becoming a liability. To the working people who supercharged his rise to power, he looks like just another politician who has sold them down the river.
Make no mistake, those voters who turned to the Tories in 2019 will not do so again unless major changes are swiftly forthcoming.
As for Labour, there are two ways to look at a result which saw Sir Keir Starmer's candidate poll a pitiful 9.7 per cent of the vote.
On one hand, any defeat for the Conservatives is good news for Labour, particularly in a seat where chances of victory were slim from the off.
And such a result was always on the cards after the backroom deal with the Lib Dems – hatched against the wishes of local Labour campaigners, it should be noted.
But while he is revelling in Mr Johnson's sorry predicament, Sir Keir would do well to reflect on the fact that his own party remains something of a specialist in failure.
After landing a rare win in Batley and Spen, Labour failed to beat the Tories in Old Bexley and Sidcup and has now seen its vote share in North Shropshire collapse to less than half of its 2019 level.
Should a by-election be triggered in Leicester East – the seat of disgraced former Labour MP Claudia Webbe – Sir Keir's party will surely be in 'must-win' territory.
For their part, the Lib Dems can smell blood and now genuinely believe they are ready to become a serious force at the next general election.
The word on the streets this morning was that Daniel Kawczynski's Shrewsbury and Atcham seat has been placed towards the top of the list of target seats.