EALING and Southall is not exactly a typical British parliamentary constituency; in fact, it is probably the most racially diverse in the country and any clued-up politician would approach it with care. Not so David Cameron, it seems.

He decided, without consulting the local constituency party adequately, that it could serve as a model of the kind of place that would welcome his vision of broadly-based modern Conservatism. It was a serious misjudgement in itself, made worse by the choice as candidate of a local Asian businessman who had never been a member of the party and only a few days before the campaign began had pledged five thousand pounds to Labour.

Thus it turned out on Thursday that the Conservatives finished in third place behind Labour and the Liberal Democrats in a constituency where a Tory mayor was elected only last year. The silver-lining in this dark cloud might be that the Conservatives got as many as 8'230 votes despite their hapless campaign; but such optimism would not be justified. Somehow the promise that David Cameron showed after his election as leader never quite seems to solidify into achievement. For Menzies Campbell the Liberal Democrats' late surge and swing of five percent from Labour was a creditable performance and it should certainly stay his sadly inevitable execution as leader.

The result vindicated Gordon Brown's decision to go for an early by-election in harness with the Sedgefield contest to replace Mr Blair, but it is of no longer-term significance.


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