Labour held Newport West, but smaller parties eat into the vote share of the big two

It could be a sign that the two-party polarisation of the 2017 election is not the new reality of British politics, but a brief detour along a journey to multi-party politics. 

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Labour have won the Newport West by-election. The scores on the door, with the changes since 2017. 

Ruth Jones (Labour Party): 39.6 per cent (-12.7%)
Matthew Evans (Conservative): 31.3 per cent (-8.0%)
Neil Hamilton (Ukip) 8.6 per cent (+6.1%)
Jonathan Clark (Plaid Cymru) 5.0 per cent (+2.5 per cent)
Ryan Jones (Liberal Democrat) 4.6 per cent (+2.4)
Amelia Womack (Green) 3.9 per cent (+2.8)

So a comfortable hold for Labour, but the interesting story is what has happened to the vote share of both of the big two: they're both down at the expense of the smaller parties. 

Is that a Brexit effect? Is it Plaid Cymru feeling the benefit of their new leader, Adam Price? Is it that while the Newport bypass is largely popular, voters who were concerned about the environmental impact of the proposal had just one place to go: the Greens' Amelia Womack? Is it just a by-election effect?

Well, it's what we’d expect given the state of the polls, which show the two big parties close to level, just as in 2017, but with a smaller share of the vote, and all of the minor parties all feeling the benefit.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, of course. It’s important to remember that this is just one by-election. We could well look back at it as a weird result, signifying nothing. 

But equally, it could be a sign that the two-party polarisation of the 2017 election is not the new reality of British politics but a brief detour along the United Kingdom’s long journey to multi-party politics. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.