As Peter Hitchens puts it this morning, based on the Rotherham and Middlesbrough results, by 2020, Conservative candidates in the North will be polling lower than those of the Monster Raving Loony Party. But in fact, that will happen at any by-election here in the second half of 2014, or quite possibly in the second half of 2013.
The Monster Raving Loony Party originated the ideas of pet passports, commercial radio, and the lowering of the voting age to 18, all of which have since come to pass despite having been jokes when they were first "proposed". However, it did not contest either Rotherham or Middlesbrough.
It might have beaten the Conservatives if it had done so (it would definitely have beaten the Lib Dems, if anyone cares). I say again that, except perhaps in an extremely agricultural area, it will beat the Conservatives in any Northern by-election, certainly in November 2014, and probably in November 2013.
At Middlesbrough, and bearing in mind that Teesside has hitherto been a Labour-Conservative battleground, the Conservative candidate beat that of the tiny, totally pacifist Peace Party by precisely three votes. That's right. Three.