The tally of the Eastleigh by-election in Britain this week is in, and the results are ugly for David Cameron's Tories. The Conservatives got absolutely hammered, falling 14 percent in the polls as the Lib Dems miraculously held on to a seat they have controlled since 1994. The culprit behind the Tory slide is the UK Independence Party, an anti-EU, anti-austerity protest movement that gained 24 percent at the polls to notch a narrow second-place finish.
Understandably, Cameron's Tories are currently in crisis mode -- a position that was all too clear on the face of the losing Tory candidate in Eastleigh, Maria Hutchings, earlier today. In the bizarre video below, she is escorted from the election hall, wordlessly refusing to answer questions with a rigor-mortis smile that may very well become the enduring symbol of the crisis in British conservative politics.
Watch for yourself. It's almost too good to be true:
Hutchings has been compared by some observers to Sarah Palin -- a characterization that she dismisses. But the fact that the ruling party's candidate in a crucial by-election can be compared to the American politician Europeans love to hate speaks volumes about the state of the Conservative party. Recent polling shows Labour with a 12 percent lead over the Conservatives, and David Cameron's recent efforts to distance himself from a pro-European agenda appear to have paid scant dividends. Cameron has promised an in-or-out referendum on UK membership in the European Union by 2017 after extracting concessions from Brussels.
If the Eastleigh results are to judge, Brits aren't buying it.