No-one foresaw Tory collapse in Cameron’s old seat Witney

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The outcome of the Witney by-election has totally contradicted the prognostications of the beard-stroking political pundits and other so-called soothsayers.

The only thing they got right about the result in the former seat of the former prime minister David Cameron was that the Conservatives would hold on to it.

But that was pretty obvious anyway.

But no one guessed that the Tories would shed some 17,000 votes in doing so, and have their majority slashed from more than 25,000 to 5,702.

And what about the Liberal Democrats?

They were almost wiped off the face of the earth at last year’s general election, but at Witney they more than doubled the number of votes they polled last year and dislodged Labour from second place.

That is a conundrum that is hard to resolve.

But if the Liberals’ sudden surge and the Tories’ belly-flop were the result of Brexit, Theresa May might well be concerned, even though by-elections are notoriously bad pointers to the outcome of a general election.

No wonder Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, is whooping with joy.

He is saying that his party is back in the big time – that is a bit of an exaggeration, but Farron is entitled to his moment of glory.

I had thought, until Witney came along, that the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn might surprise us all.

But the pundits got this bit right: It looks as though he is sinking below the water line.

• If Brussels grandees thought Prime Minister Theresa May would be a pushover in the vital Brexit negotiations, they have now got the shock of their lives.

They are quickly finding, to their consternation, that May is proving herself every bit as tough an adversary as Margaret Thatcher was in her handbag heyday.

The European Union bigwigs seen to want to make these talks as difficult as possible.

When one of them tried to insist negotiations were conducted in French, May, to her eternal credit, instantly responded – and I paraphrase – not on your life.

That alone makes it plain there is some intense, and tough, talking ahead.

But the prime minister has shown that she is not one who can be budged off course.

No less significant was the fact that, over the weekend, the Canadians marched out of talks about a trade deal with the European Union.

They complained that Brussels was “impossible” to do business with.

What a surprise!

The sooner we can get all this behind us and regain our sovereignty, the better.

• It’s good news that there is to be a new crackdown on nuisance phone callers.

The government is to remove a loophole that allows companies fined for this practice to declare bankruptcy, and in doing so, avoiding the fine.

In future, the bosses of such companies will be responsible for paying these fines, which could amount to £500,000.

Let us hope this step will go some way at least towards ending this scourge.