THE Conservatives have narrowly avoided a triple wipeout in the three English by-elections held yesterday.

The Tories lost Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire to Labour, previously one of their safest seats, while the LibDems took the Somerset constituency of Somerton and Frome, another theoretically safe Tory seat.

However there was a straw of comfort for the Tories when they managed to just about hang on to Boris Johnson's old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which had the smallest Conservative majority out of the three seats up for contention.

The Tories held on, but Labour slashed Boris Johnson's majority of 7210 to just 495.

Worryingly for Sunak, the Conservatives only clung on by ignoring the five “priorities” that the Prime Minister bangs on about ad nauseum, turning the by-election into a mini referendum on the Labour Mayor of London's plan to extend London's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (Ulez) into the city's outer boroughs.

In fact the local Conservatives did their utmost to avoid any mention of Rishi Sunak.

Meanwhile the Labour campaign was reportedly hampered by divisions between local party activists unhappy about Starmer's full-throated embrace of Conservative policies and staffers from Labour HQ.

Despite the pitiable attempts of the likes of Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy to insist that the by-election results prove that the Tories are still in with a chance of winning the next General Election, the local factors which allowed the Conservatives to hang on by the skin of their teeth in Uxbridge and South Ruislip will not be replicated across the UK in a General Election, when the Tories will be unable to run a campaign that does not mention the Prime Minister.

However, the result in Uxbridge and South Ruislip will certainly encourage the Tories to find “wedge issues” on which to campaign in order to distract voters from the economic damage created by Brexit and the havoc wreaked by Tory mismanagement of the economy and their thirteen year long campaign of vandalism against public services.

READ MORE: Laurence Fox dealt humiliating by-election defeat as he LOSES deposit

Expect the next General Election to be particularly nasty and bitter as desperate Conservatives, aided and abetted by the right-wing media – which is most of it – lash out against the poor, efforts to protect the environment, benefits claimants and marginalised and minority groups.

The National:

Far more telling than Uxbridge and South Ruislip as far as the outcome of the next General Election is concerned, are the by-elections in North Yorkshire and Somerset, both of which provide strong evidence of anti-Conservative tactical voting.

In Selby and Ainsty there was a historic 23% swing to Labour. In both these seats huge and theoretically impregnable Conservative majorities crumbled in the face of widespread public anger with the Conservative Government.

Despite the crumb grabbing of the Conservatives today, the Tories are still on course for a well-deserved thrashing at the next General Election.

The Conservatives have now lost six by-elections in the course of this Parliament, which will certainly increase the jitters amongst Tory MPs.

However, the narrow victory in Uxbridge gives Sunak enough of a straw to clutch in order to forestall any potential rebellion amongst his restless backbenchers.

READ MORE: Conservatives suffer record loss in Selby and Ainsty by-election

The Conservatives now face the – for them – nightmare scenario of being caught in a pincer movement between Labour in the Midlands and North of England and the LibDems in the South and South West of England.

This could potentially mean a Conservative meltdown in England, giving a lie to Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar's contention that they need the support of voters in Scotland in order to get the Tories out.

However, from a more jaundiced and cynical Scottish perspective, all that happened in these by-elections is that three flavours of right-wing Anglo-British nationalism won.

The results will only encourage Starmer to continue his pursuit of Conservative votes and abolishing the hideous two-child cap on benefits is now an even more distant prospect than before.

All three of these parties offer slightly different versions of the same Conservative policies and all three are united in their determination to ignore the democratic will of the people of Scotland.

The next UK General Election will offer voters in most of the UK the mere illusion of choice but not its substance.

Meanwhile, after spending the last few months telling vital public sector workers that the Government does not have enough money to give them pay rises which would allow them to cope with the cost of living crisis, and insisting that a 6% pay rise is the absolute maximum that can be afforded, the Conservatives have decided to award the already obscenely wealthy King Charles a pay rise of a whopping 45%.

Well I say "pay rise" which kind of assumes that he actually has a job.

Details published by Treasury show the royal family's sovereign grant, paid for from public funds, is expected to increase from £86m to £125m in 2025.

It was recently reported that the King has a private fortune estimated to be over £1.8 billion although for the most part his substantial private wealth is carefully shielded from public scrutiny and it is impossible to know its true extent.

This wealth has been accumulated in large measure due to various tax exemptions enjoyed by the royal family, not the least of which is their exemption from inheritance tax.

The King's private wealth also includes numerous valuable state gifts which have since been subsumed into the Windsor's private wealth with the connivance of successive governments.

Apparently there is not enough money in the public coffers to lift children out of poverty, but there's more than enough money to give millions more to a billionaire.