Conservatives held Newark in Thursday’s by-election with 17,431 votes, UKIP were in second place with 10,028. The Liberal Democrats sank from second in the 2010 General Election to sixth, behind Labour, the Greens and an independent.
Whilst the result was never in much doubt given that the seat was the 44th safest for the Conservatives, they fought hard to stop UKIP winning. The Conservative majority of 7,403 was much higher than most pundits had predicted.
In advance of the election Nigel Farage described beating the Conservatives as similar to “climbing Everest”, but it did come shortly after UKIP won the European elections and taking Newark would have been another major boost for the party.
UKIP got just 1954 votes at the 2010 General Election but at the by-election this rocketed to 10,028. A result the party are likely to be happy with, despite it not being enough to win.
Another significant upset in the election was the level of resources the Conservatives were able to put into retaining Newark. On Saturday they brought 600 activists to the seat, and on polling day 1000, almost unprecedented numbers that have left rival parties stunned. Not least because Labour’s narrative had been that the Tories were declining in membership and unable to mount the sort of ground war needed to win a majority next year.
Labour failed to demonstrate Ed Miliband had made the breakthrough needed to propel him to Downing Street in May. His party held Newark – with slightly different boundaries – from 1997 until 2001 with a majority of over 3000, however it barely featured in this by-election.
The result also suggested that the Liberal Democrat wipe out is nowhere near over, as the party lost their deposit having only got 1004 votes. This result will pile further pressure on Nick Clegg’s leadership, following on from their dreadful result in the European elections when they lost all but one of their MEPs.
The Conservative backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told BBC This Week that Conservatives should “rejoice” at the by-election win as the party had done so badly in similar elections in the past. Commenting on UKIP coming second Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I basically think that UKIP are also small ‘c’ conservatives and if the only two parties in the running are small ‘c’ conservatives that bodes extremely well for conservatism in this country.”
Nigel Farage said: “What this by-election shows actually is that there are people out there now who are not lending their vote to UKIP for European elections, they are UKIP voters.
“We have come big second in Conservative seats, Labour seats and Liberal Democrat seats… We have fought a damn good campaign here with a first class candidate and the people’s army of UKIP is getting more professional and better at fighting elections. All I can say is roll on the next by-election.”
The by-election came about because of the resignation of Patrick Mercer who was the subject of an undercover sting operation by journalists posing as corrupt lobbyists. This by-election is the first time the Conservatives have won a by-election in government for 25 years.
The full results were:
Conservatives: 17,431 (45% -8.9%)
UKIP: 10,028 (25.9% +22.1%)
Labour: 6,842 (17.7% -4.6%)
Liberal Democrats: 1004 (2.6% -17.4%)