The result in Henley last night was fairly predictable in terms of who was going to win, however it seems that Howell's doorstepping coupled with the Conservatives' popularity not only managed to increase their share of what was quite a respectable 50% turnout, but also depress the votes of the opposition and lead to switching away from Labour. But the most fascinating part of something like this is the spin that the candidates and their respective parties put on the result.
Predictably Howell, after of course highlighting the result also was based on local issues, commented "The British public has sent a message to Gordon Brown to 'get off our backs, stop the endless tax rises and help us cope with the rising cost of living'," albeit a small public this is the Conservative agenda and so any indication of support is useful. Really Howell's spin was fairly simple though, on the back of polling results and Crewe & Nantwich the Conservatives have control of the agenda and it is hard to argue that the collapse in the Labour vote is a local phenomena and not part of a wider picture.
Martin Salter seems to be the only Labour MP to have commented so far, while deflecting criticism on to the Liberal Democrat style of campaigning he remarked "It is very difficult to divine a clear message for Gordon Brown in a seat in which we had no chance at all. It is one of the worst seats for Labour in the country." This is the 'we had no chance, guv', play down the defeat, approach.
Nick Clegg, however, despite not making any impact on the Conservative majority, seemed the most positive: "Labour's days are well and truly over and it is the Liberal Democrats who are challenging the Conservatives in the south and Labour in the north," challenging yes, so far winning no.
The problem is that the media will decide how to play it and they are very much focusing on the disaster for Brown, coinciding as it does with being in Number 10 for a year; however the parties feel compelled to compete and position the contest in relation to their own goals, play down failure and play up victory.