Pick of the Week: Tory plots, Tory dreams and Tory failures

Our five most popular pieces of the week, for your reading pleasure

Five: Rochester reveals a left which lost its voice

The campaign in Rochester and Strood now looks almost certain to go to Ukip, but why aren't Labour even part of the story? Their candidate is a strong presence in debates and was willing to put in the work, but the central party has left her to fend for herself. It’s another damning indictment of the opposition, which taken a seat it owned four years ago and treated it as a no-hoper.

Four: How we've been conned into believing the UK has an airport crisis

Every debate about airport capacity starts from the same premise: that our current arrangement is insufficient. But where's the evidence to substantiate it? In 2012, Stansted had 47% of all its runway slots left empty, while Luton airport had 51% unused. Even Gatwick was 12% underused. Perhaps we'd be better off improving public transport links to existing airports.

Three: Iain Duncan Smith to meet Universal Credit target in 700 years' time

The publication of figures about Universal Credit rarely bodes well for Iain Duncan Smith's reputation and this week was no different. The former Tory leader once aimed to get 12 million onto the programme. He may still accomplish that, but it will take 700 years at the current rate of progress. "By that point," Adam Bienkov wrote, "even Duncan Smith may have to admit that there are problems with the scheme."

Two: Three reasons why the Tories are in even bigger trouble than Labour

While the Westminster bubble got lost in a hysterical fit over Ed Miliband's leadership, the even-more problematic leadership of David Cameron was ignored. The prime minister's chances of winning an overall majority in 2015 have plunged to just 14.3%. The long and short term trends indicate the Tories are in serious trouble, making the media focus on Miliband ever-more absurd. This time next week, when – in all likelihood – the Tories have lost Rochester, the debate may be slightly different.

One: Tory rebels threaten to derail Cameron's Scottish devolution vow

The media circus has mostly moved on from the complex constitutional negotiations triggered by the Scottish independence referendum, but we're still covering the details of the secret talks. As before, Conservative demands are holding the process up, with the hope that they can secure some party political advantage and isolate Ed Miliband. It is not the kind of spectacle one would wish for if one wanted to maintain faith in the British political system.