If Twitter was anything to go by, the Tories threw the kitchen sink at yesterday's East Ayr by-election, and no wonder - even though the SNP were technically defending the seat, the Tories won the popular vote in the ward last time around, so simply by standing still they should have been able to "gain" the seat.
The outcome will delight connoisseurs of the intricacies of the STV system, because the Tories won the popular vote again (albeit only just, after suffering a small net swing to the SNP), but still lost the seat after lower preferences were redistributed.
East Ayr by-election result :
Conservatives 38.5% (+5.5)
SNP 38.0% (+6.5)
Labour 16.2% (-7.3)
Independent 5.5% (-1.0)
I'm rather incongruously spending the anniversary of the referendum at a Union Jack theme park in the east end of Glasgow known as the Davis Cup, but I'll add analysis later when I have a minute...
UPDATE : It may not be apparent on TV, because the cameras are mostly pointing the wrong way, but there's an absolutely enormous Yes flag in the crowd at the Emirates Arena.
UPDATE II : Apologies for the long delay - after leaving the tennis last night my diary proved to be fuller than I expected.
Basically what lost the by-election for the Conservatives was that Green transfers broke heavily for the SNP, and Labour transfers went slightly more for the SNP than the Tories. There are two ways of looking at that - on the one hand, it illustrates why the hopes of massive unionist tactical voting in May were wildly over-optimistic. Clearly, when push comes to shove Labour supporters are slightly more interested in voting SNP to keep the Tories out than the other way around. On the other hand, it's quite striking that very nearly as many people who voted for a party led by Jeremy Corbyn transferred to the Tories as transferred to the SNP. That suggests there may well be some irrational antipathy towards the SNP among the rump Labour support.
The first thing we always look out for in local by-elections is the net swing from Labour to SNP. In this case, it was just under 7%, which is very much at the lower end of the range we've been used to recently. Of course, you'd expect the swing to be lower in a ward where Labour aren't one of the top two parties, but nevertheless it's slightly troubling that the Tory vote increased by almost as much as the SNP's. The most negative interpretation is that a large chunk of the lost Labour vote went direct to the Tories because of the Corbyn factor, and that the real movement from Labour to SNP was very, very low by recent standards. A more encouraging interpretation is that the Tory increase mostly came from the independent candidate who didn't stand this time, and that Labour lost their votes en masse to the SNP. Take your pick.