A lot of by-elections don't matter. They pop and vanish like soap bubbles in no time at all. They are predictable rebellions by voters who will be equally predictable in returning to their old allegiances once the General Election comes round. But Friday's Tory defeat at Chesham and Amersham is not one of those. Nobody saw it coming. Silent, sudden revolts of this kind spell real danger.
Driving HS2 through a beloved landscape, when its superfast trains will not even stop there, was always a theoretical risk. But now, with work so far advanced that halting the plan is almost impossible, this result has made it a persistent headache for Downing Street, for which there is no obvious cure.
Deeper still is the growing grumbling of rural and suburban Tories against the relaxation of the planning laws. People who have worked and saved for years for a little share of peace and space suddenly feel threatened in the very place where they once felt safe. Local control over development has been significantly weakened. Tory voters rightly ask why a party whose deepest roots are in the countryside and the leafy avenues of Britain should have become a cheerleader for concrete development and high-rise towers.
It is all very well to continue taking seats from Labour in the North. But there is no point in doing so if the Tories start losing in the South. Always remember your base, Boris. In the end, nothing matters more
And who knows if the Amersham vote was not also affected by the decision to drag on Covid restrictions for another month? Heathrow Airport is nearby, and many of those put out of work or out of business by lockdown live there.
It is all very well to continue taking seats from Labour in the North. But there is no point in doing so if the Tories start losing in the South. Always remember your base, Boris. In the end, nothing matters more.