Cameron faces 'crisis' after defeat

2013-03-01 09:31

London - The Liberal Democrats on Friday hung onto the southern England parliamentary seat of Eastleigh, dealing a heavy blow to Prime Minister David Cameron whose Conservative Party were beaten into third place.

The election was billed as a straight battle between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, their junior coalition partner, but the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) capitalised on voter disillusionment to claim second place.

A senior Conservative earlier warned that third place would be a "crisis" for his party.

The returning officer announced shortly after 02:00 GMT that Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton had secured 13 342 votes, 1 771 more than UKIP representative Diane James.

Tory nominee Maria Hutchings limped in third with 10 559 votes.

The victory handed embattled Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg a much needed boost.

Damaging events

The election was sparked by the resignation of disgraced former energy minister Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat who has pleaded guilty to trying to avoid a speeding fine.

The party has also been damaged by an ongoing sex scandal surrounding its former chief executive Chris Rennard, and the result looks set to cause ructions within an already strained coalition.

Thornton credited the party's "fighting spirit" for securing victory and paid tribute to Clegg, saying that his support and visits to the town had given a "tremendous boost" to the campaign.

"Tonight is a great night for the Liberal Democrats nationally," he added. "It sends a strong signal of support for Nick Clegg."

A statement released by the Lib Dems at close of polling said the defeat would be "a major blow" to the Tories.

"If the Conservatives can't beat us... under these circumstances, when can they beat us?" it added.


Senior Conservative David Davis earlier warned that a loss for the party would place serious doubt over Cameron's leadership of the party.

"If we came third it would be a crisis," Davis told BBC television.

Some 58% of the 79 000 residents eligible to vote turned out to choose the winner from the 14 candidates, who had campaigned incessantly since the election was called following Huhne's resignation on 5 February.

On the eve of polling, Cameron urged Conservatives to back the party's candidate Maria Hutchings, who vowed to help "get the country back on its feet" if she won.

Clegg visited Eastleigh on Wednesday to pledge his support for Thornton, saying he was on the "cusp of a great, great victory".

Addressing supporters at Lib Dems headquarters, Clegg called the race the "most exciting and closely contested by-election" that he could remember.

UKIP shock

UKIP's James said her second place finish was a "humongous shock" that showed the party was now a major force in British politics.

"This will be an absolutely seismic shift in terms of politics and political thinking if UKIP overtakes the Tories in such a key target seat for them," she said.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed that Cameron's focus on "wind turbines and gay marriage" instead of free enterprise and business had lost him support in the party's heartlands.

"Nobody can ever again say that a UKIP vote is a wasted vote," he told Sky News. "We're getting nearer and nearer."

John O'Farrell, the candidate for the main opposition Labour party, finished fourth after failing in his bid to secure the protest vote.

  • John Smith - 2013-03-01 09:38

    British people have had enough, the reason why UKIP are doing so well is because we want a party to leave the EUSSR and to look after the British people Sign this petition to restrict Bulgarian and Romanians from entering the UK: Over 62,000 at 100,00 it goes to Parliament

      Fidel Uncensored - 2013-03-01 09:50

      What's wrong with Romanians and Bulgarians?

      Gary5 - 2013-03-01 10:40

      Two countries with the highest unemployment, all they will do is flood into the UK like all the other riff raff, unemployed and middle eastern populations, bringing hordes of family members and feeding of the state benifits.

      Fidel Uncensored - 2013-03-01 11:03

      But your young ones don't want to work, for the same reasons that their grand parents brought Indians and Pakistanese to the UK, like cleaning the sewers, etc?

      Paul Gellard - 2013-03-01 11:08

      Actually Fidel, people from the Commonwealth were brought to the UK after World War II because of a labour shortage. Nothing to do with kids not wanting to work...

      Fidel Uncensored - 2013-03-01 11:18

      That might have been the case then, and I'm willing to admit my ignorance on that part, however, what are the reasons today. Isn't always easy to blame the foreigners, the same is happening in this country where the youth want to live in mansions and live the life, but none are willing to put in the hard work.

      Paul Gellard - 2013-03-01 11:23

      I will certainly partly agree with that when referring to nowadays. Some British kids are too lazy to work, and the government makes it too easy for them to do so. BUT, I would also say that opening our labour market and borders to those from vastly poorer countries (such as Romania and Bulgaria) has been counter-productive because they will always undercut British workers when it comes to wages. The same happens in South Africa with many Zimbabweans etc. All it does is drive living standards down. That's why it has to be tightly controlled.

      Fidel Uncensored - 2013-03-01 11:56

      Strangely enough, employers welcome the competition in the labour market. It's really a difficult social problem to balance. Economists tell us that the SA labour market is too inflexible, is the same being parroted in the UK. After all it was the UK that gave the world organised labour! It's quite interesting that you mention living standards in your post, as it appears that in SA, those born on the fringes are available for exploitation.

  • Russophillia - 2013-03-01 10:14

    Good. Cameron is a putz. Most conservatives weren't too pleased when Cameron shoved gay marriage down everyone's throats. It came out of nowhere! Support for the UKIP shows that the UK wants a true conservative/centre right party.

  • johnwyattcapetown - 2013-03-01 20:54

    Nigel Farage is a dangerous character in British politics. Anyone who thinks his 2nd place in a mid-term by-election is a victory is kidding themselves. The Brits always like to tease the Tories mid-term. Fact is the Liberals took it, and how far are they away from the Faschist think of Farage are they??

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