The Ukip earthquake failed to shake the Conservatives out of Newark on Thursday, after Nigel Farage's party was unable capitalise on its stunning European election success by winning the parliamentary by-election in the Nottinghamshire constituency. But the ground did move a bit.
Roger Helmer, Ukip's candidate who currently represents the area as an MEP, came in second place with 10,028 votes (25.91%). Robert Jenrick, the Tory candidate, held on to the seat for the Conservatives after winning 17,431 votes (45.03%). A majority of 7,403 votes.
Ed Miliband's Labour Party candidate came in third place with 6,852 votes (17.68%). The result was another disaster for Nick Clegg, as the Lib Dem candidate finished a distant sixth with just 1,004 votes (2.59%). Politicians from both parties suggested a significant number of their traditional supporters actually chose to tactically vote Tory in order to keep Ukip out.
Following his victory, Jenrick said his election had "wider national significance" as the Conservative Party had not won a by-election in government since William Hague's election as an MP 25-years ago.
Ukip's failure to win its first Westminster MP will dent the party's momentum, however it was always a tall order for the party to overturn the seat's 16,152 Tory majority. Conceding defeat before the result was formally announced, Farage spun the result as a moral, if not numerical, victory.
"The people's army are going to be very happy with this result tonight," he said. "I think this has been a stunning campaign that we've fought in a very short space of time. We've been up against possibly the biggest Conservative machine defending about their 40th safest seat in the country."
Helmer said he had "stood hoping to win and planning to win" but said he was happy to have "halved the Conservative majority".
"That is a great sign for the future of our party and for our intention to take our party ahead next year to the general election on a targeted basis," he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the result in a message on Twitter:
In @RobertJenrick the people of Newark will have an MP who will fight for them and work to deliver a brighter future for all.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) June 6, 2014
Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, who favours a Conservative-Ukip pact in 2015 in order to keep Labour out of power, said while a win for his party was "good for morale" it would be a mistake to think it meant the Ukip threat had been dispatched.
"Ukip has become a very powerful force," he told the BBC in the early hours of Friday morning. "I don't think one by-election, however cheering that is, allows us to dismiss Ukip for the future."
The Newark by-election was triggered by disgraced ex-Tory Patrick Mercer's decision to stand down. He quit over what a sleaze watchdog said was the worst breach of transparency rules it had ever seen.
Farage has faced questions over his decision to to throw himself fully into the Ukip ground campaign in the last few days of electioneering. As polls opened at 7am on Thursday, Farage was hundreds of miles away in Malta at a travel and tourism conference.
By contrast the Conservative Party threw the kitchen sink at the contest so as to avoid an embarrassing defeat. Senior Tories including the prime minister and Boris Johnson visited the town, as did over half of the party's MPs and thousands of activists.
Farage said David Cameron must have had "a very empty diary" to visit Newark four times.
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When asked what the party would do next, he said: "Wait for the next by-election which will be, I suspect, if Mr Lansley goes to the European Commission in Cambridgeshire."
Asked whether he would stand, he said: "I'm really getting bored with being asked whether I should stand in every single electoral contest which takes place in this country. Ukip is about a lot more than Nigel Farage."
"I think there'll be an awful lot of Conservatives with a majority of less than 10,000 who will look upon this result tonight in sheer horror."
The third place finish for Labour candidate Michael Payne will not be encouraging for Ed Miliband, considering the party won the seat in 1997. Labour figures have been quick to point out that boundary changes have since made it safer Tory territory. But John Curtice, the BBC's election guru and professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the result was "not a sign of a party that is making progress but a sign of a party in retreat".
And the result was a disaster for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem candidate David Watts came in sixth place behind the Greens and an independent candidate. It was the ninth time party has lost its deposit in a by-election since 2010.
While the Tories flooded into Newark, Watts admitted not a single Lib Dem MP had visited to help him.
When asked what the party should change in the next few months, he said: "What we have to do is get our message across more clearly so much of what was in the Queen's Speech was Liberal Democrat policy and we're achieving an awful lot but what we need to do is make sure people realise that that is what we do."
"This isn't going to happen in 2015 each constituency is different, by-elections are very different to national elections."
Asked whether he still had confidence in Nick Clegg, Watts said: "Absolutely, Nick's been a brilliant leader. I hope he'll be our leader for many years to come."Suggest a correction