Liberal Democrats hold onto Eastleigh in by-election as UKIP vote soars

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

A photo of David Cameron with Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne.
Image: Office of Nick Clegg.

The Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton won the Eastleigh, United Kingdom parliamentary by-election on Thursday with a slim majority of 1,771 votes, with the Conservative Party finishing in third place after a voting surge for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who finished in second.

Thornton, who lives in Bishopstoke and has been a local councillor since 2007, said in his victory speech, "The people of Eastleigh recognise that the Liberal Democrats have always had a superb record of delivery, we've always listened to what people want, and we always make sure that we do a good job." Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg celebrated with Mike Thornton and party supporters; in a statement he said: "We held our nerve, we stood our ground. We overcame the odds and won a stunning victory".

At the last general election in 2010, Liberal Democrats won with 46.5% of the vote, holding a 3,864-vote majority over the Conservative Party, who gained 39.3%, and the constituency has been in the Liberal Democrats' control since another by-election in 1994. The party's share of the vote dropped by 14.4 percentage points as UKIP posted their best-ever election results.

A map of the Eastleigh constituency.
Image: Wereon.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said that after their success in the by-election they will "take the tremor that [they] have created at Eastleigh and turn it into a national political earthquake" in the European Parliament election in 2014. Farage said of Prime Minister David Cameron, "He's talking about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India. He wants Turkey to join the European Union. The Conservatives' problems are not because of UKIP, it's because of their leader".

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said "We'll be fighting the next election providing a clear choice between David Cameron as PM or [Labour Party leader] Ed Miliband." David Cameron played down suggestions that UKIP pose a big threat to the Conservative Party at the 2015 General Election. He said, "It is a disappointing result for the Conservative Party, but it is clear that, in mid-term by-elections, people want to register a protest".

The Labour candidate John O'Farrell ended up fourth with 9.82% of the vote. Ed Miliband responded by saying, "Clearly I would have preferred to get more votes but this was always going to be a tough fight for Labour".

Chris Huhne, the former Secretary of State for Energy, triggered the election when he resigned as the MP after admitting perverting the course of justice by asking his wife to take speeding penalty points for him in 2003.