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Brecon and Radnorshire: A personal disaster, a political earthquake

Credit: PA

This was a brutal by-election result with tough messages for the Conservatives, Labour and the Brexit Party.

And although it always looked likely the Liberal Democrats could win it, they were never able to take that for granted because it really was neck and neck as box after box of ballot papers was emptied.

In the end though a lethal combination of factors local and national along with a relentless campaign which often veered into personal attacks is what did for Chris Davies. It completes his downfall and almost certainly is the end of his political career.

But painful as that must be, the questions this by-election poses are bigger than the issues that spelt disaster for him.

Read more: A blow for Tories as Jane Dodds wins Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

For Boris Johnson this is a big blow. Not even two weeks into his time as Prime Minister and he's lost the first electoral test, despite a campaign visit (albeit one that was contained behind closed doors.) A Labour figure said to me at the count: 'Boris Johnson has made history tonight. Never has a Prime Minister lost a by-election so soon after taking office.'

Credit: PA

Yes, the result makes a bad parliamentary situation worse for him too, but in truth that situation is far worse than losing one more vote in the commons suggests. As recent votes have shown, he can't even assume a majority of one or zero and if, as predicted during the course of the night, Tory MPs use this result as a trigger to defect to the Lib Dems, even that will seem impossible to achieve.

Labour is doing its best to console itself that it never thought it could win this and is relieved that its voters threw their support behind the Lib Dems and the Remain alliance rather than the Brexit party. But the fact is the dominant political party in Wales came close to losing its deposit in this by-election and that can't be a comfortable position to be in.

The Brexit party feels pleased to have come a decent third place but a few weeks ago it looked like it could come second and a few months ago it was possible it could have won this by-election. Party figures during the night have talked up this result both as part of a conscious strategy and a warning to Boris Johnson: 'deliver Brexit or we will take you apart.'

Credit: PA

This was Jane Dodds' victory though and a good one for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Facing oblivion in the last few years they now have a Welsh leader who's an elected MP with a platform to help the long awaited fightback.

However, they need to pause for reflection. This win was only achieved with the support of Labour tactical voters and the explicit alliance of Plaid Cymru and Green parties. There'll be big tests for the 'Remain Alliance' and the Lib Dems will have their work cut out balancing that with rebuilding their party and retaining Brecon and Radnorshire.

As one senior Lib Dem familiar with the seat said to me after the result, 'Winning is the easy part. Now we have to keep hold of the seat.'