Politics at home and abroad

An interesting day, politically. <a href="http://www.labour.org.uk">Labour</a> have won the <a hrf="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3706100.stm">Hartlepool by-election</a>, though with a reduced majority as you might expect. More interestingly, <a href="http://www.ukip.org/">UKIP</a> have pushed the <a href="http//www.conservatives.org">Conservatives</a> into fourth place (the Liberal Democrats came second). A by-election is not a general election, but if UKIP can do so well in a national election, do the Tories have something to worry about? In the worst-case scenario, a split of the rightist vote could make even the safest constituencies – the <A HREF="http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/results_constituencies/constituencies/333.stm">Huntingdons</a>, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/results_constituencies/constituencies/617.stm">Wealdens</a> and <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/results_constituencies/constituencies/390.stm">Maidstones</a> of this world – into contestable seats. The Tories won't want to have to fight on two flanks.

Also, in America, the consensus view seems to be that <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64102-2004Oct1.html?referrer=email">John Kerry outperformed President Bush</a> in the first of the three presidential debates. Given that foreign policy is one of the main issues of this campaign, and that people's views of the candidates will be created much more by this debate than by the next two, this could be a very significant gain for Senator Kerry's wobbly campaign. He is known as a strong finisher – could he come from behind in the final furlong?