There is little to add to the acres of comment about the stunning Tory win at Crewe and Nantwich. In some ways it is difficult to work up yet more excitement over what is undoubtedly a dramatic political event given its predictability. We may not have expected the Conservative candidate to get a majority even larger than that awarded at the last election to St. Gwynneth, but we certainly expected him to win. And win he has. Big time.
I had a couple of texts from a Labour supporting ex-student last night who, for presumably masochistic reasons, had decided to head up to Crewe. The first, early in the evening, announced that things were 'grim'. The second, much later, abandoned reason in favour of more anglo-saxon comments about Labour's chances. It was as eloquent an expression of Labour's failure as anything I've read.
The message for Brown is obvious (and I don't think we need to waste time analysing the message for the Liberals). But what is the message for Cameron? Very positively, he has finally won a by-election off Labour. The last Tory to do this, before she was in government, was Margaret Thatcher. The impact of Thatcher's electoral shadow since 1978 has been such that every Tory leader, including herself, has struggled at by-elections. Why? Because the Tories have been so viscerally hated. That's Thatcher's legacy, but Cameron may now be feeling vindicated and triumphant at having laid to rest that mendacious Tory ghost. It's OK to vote Tory again - they are back in the game of proper vote-winning politics.
But Cameron himself has tacitly acknowledged the task ahead with his relatively low-key victory comments. He has resisted the temptation to gloat. He knows the Tories have achieved stage 1 of their come-back, but stage 2, the definition of workable, appealing policies, is still very much a work in progress. You only had to listen to George Osborne this morning on the 'Today' programme, wheeling his way round having to explain what the Tory tax policy was, to realise the significance of the task.
Finally, by-election triumphs don't necessarily equal general election wins. Ask Neil Kinnock. But here there is really worrying news for Brown. Kinnock won by-elections, but no-one could really picture him as prime minister. Looking at Cameron, however, most voters do see a prime minister, even if it is one in the image of Tony Blair.