The Tories are clearly trying to spook Gordon Brown against having an immediate general election, by talking up their victory in a by-election in Sunderland last night. A swing to Labour in marginal Dover is far more significant. Yet after a few good weeks of by-elections, the run of last night's results could be read as suggesting that Labour's luck is starting to run out. But Brown shouldn't make his decision on an election on the basis of a few by-elections with low turnouts. An important finding in the Channel 4/You Gov poll earlier this week was that few people actually want an autumn poll, including most Labour supporters. A November poll could cause resentment, and many of them to stay at home. That, as well as whatever private polling he is seeing this weekend, should affect his final decision.
UPDATE: Luke Akehurst has his usual exhaustive take on the by-elections here. There are clearly some odd shifts in Dover, but some apparently good results in Chester-le-Street and Mansfield. Seeing the figures suggests the Tory night of triumph was more a triumph of Central Office spin. They really don't want an early election, do they?