Anti-wind-farm candidate James Delingpole pulls out of Corby by-election, as the town continues to have no wind farms

Delingpole cites "stunningly successful campaign"; others cite desire to avoid losing £500 deposit.

Harry Cole of Guy Fawkes' blog has a quote from anti-green journalist James Delingpole, announcing his withdrawal from the Corby by-election:

What would be the point? John Hayes has just gone and made my every dream come true. I’m overjoyed. In fact, I think I may well have run the most stunningly successful election campaign in the history of elections.

Delingpole, of course, was running as an anti-wind-farm candidate in a constituency without any wind farms. Since Corby still has no wind farms, in a way he has been astonishingly successful, and will doubtless soon be attempting to sell residents of the arctic circle magic amulets which keep away lions – works 100% of the time!

It was always unclear whether Delingpole was running in Corby on local issues or in an attempt to make his voice heard nationally (beyond his already considerable platform as a Telegraph columnist). There are ongoing tussles in Corby around an application to build a wind farm, but since that application hasn't been dropped, it seems Delingpole was just using the by-election as a megaphone, and didn't really care about the situation in Corby at all. Fancy that.

Delingpole cited the anti-wind-farm rhetoric of DECC minister John Hayes, but since Delingpole gave Cole his statement, the DECC secretary of state (Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who outranks the Conservative minister) has contradicted Hayes. Will Delingpole re-enter the race?

That seems unlikely. As Tim Fenton points out:

Delingpole has withdrawn just before the deadline for submitting nomination papers, which is 1600 hours today (pdf). So he doesn’t have to stump up a £500 deposit, but gets his free publicity. The Fawkes blog item is spin of the most blatant kind: the real story is that James Delingpole never intended to submit himself to the electorate of Corby and East Northamptonshire.

It would be wonderful to know what Delingpole was planning to give as his reason for pulling out before Hayes' comments gave him a convenient excuse. Now, we never shall.

A wind farm, not in Corby. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496