Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats were routed in the Barnsley Central by-election last night, beaten into sixth place by Labour, the Tories, UKIP, an independent and the BNP - just 15 miles from his Sheffield constituency.
Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats were routed in the Barnsley Central by-election last night, beaten into sixth place by Labour, the Tories, UKIP, an independent and the BNP – just 15 miles from his Sheffield constituency.
This morning a shaken Clegg admitted it was “obviously a bad result for the Liberal Democrats”, but insisted it wouldn’t knock him off course. The Lib Dems had finished second in the seat in May; yesterday, they lost their deposit. For David Cameron, there was also little to cheer, the Conservatives losing 4,389 votes since the general election, down nine points.
Clegg said today:
“I have no doubt that people will try to use this single result to write off the Liberal Democrats. They have done it in the past and we have proved them wrong and we will prove them wrong again. In government, we will continue to do what I think is absolutely vital for the long-term benefit of the country – namely sort out the economic mess we inherited from Labour for the long-term benefit of the country.”
The winning Labour candidate, however, said the Lib Dem slump was not the fact they were in government, but the decisions they had made in government. Dan Jarvis, who polled 60.8 per cent of the vote (up 13.5 points), said:
“The important thing is this. This is not the price you pay for being in government. It is the price you pay for making bad decisions in government. The Lib Dems gave been shown for being two-faced.
“They make a promise on one day, in one part of the country and they break it on another day. When you are in government, you cannot do that. What this shows is that people are waking up to what the coalition government is doing and the Conservatives and Lib Dems are equally to blame.”
While for UKIP, leader Nigel Farage said:
“We’ve shown our potential in European elections by getting big scores in the past and now we’re doing it in first past the post Westminster elections; we are delighted though I have to say but not completely surprised.
“Because just over the last month, whether it’s votes for prisoners, car insurance for young women, annuities for old men, increasingly our Parliament is seen to be completely impotent. So the UKIP message that we should take back control of our own lives is very relevant to voters.”
And from the centre right, leading commentator James Forsyth of the Spectator described it as “a night that will not quickly be forgotten”, one that will cause the prime minister and his deputy headaches from their respective parties’ grassroots in the weeks ahead.
“Last night’s by-election result in Barnsley is embarrassing for both Clegg and Cameron. For Clegg, it is obviously humiliating to come sixth. Fourth would have been bad enough but sixth is an even worse result than the Lib Dems feared. The fact the Lib Dems also lost their deposit just adds insult to injury.
“The result will certainly make activists heading to Sheffield next week for their spring conference jumpy. I also suspect that we’ll see some enterprising newspaper doing a poll in Clegg’s Sheffield constituency before next weekend.
“On the Conservative side, coming third behind UKIP is going to lend weight to those who argue that the party has conceded too much to its coalition partners. I expect there’ll be a lot of quite grumbling on this point in Cardiff this weekend at the party’s spring forum.”
The full result was:
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Barnsley Central by-election, March 4th 2011
Dan Jarvis Labour 14,724 60.8% Jane Collins UKIP 2,953 12.2% James Hockney Tory 1,999 8.3% Enis Dalton BNP 1,463 6.0% Tony Devoy Ind 1,266 5.2% Dominic Carman Lib Dem 1,012 4.2% Kevin Riddiough Eng Dem 544 2.2% Howling Laud Hope Loony 198 0.8% Michael Val Davies Ind 60 0.2%
Labour majority: 11,771