Newark By-Election: Lib Dems Humiliated With Distant Sixth Place Finish

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NICK CLEGG
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The Liberal Democrats were humiliated in Newark on Thursday night, finishing in a distant sixth place after winning only just over 1,000 votes.

The Lib Dem candidate David Watts lost his deposit and finished behind the Greens and an independent candidate. It was one of the party's worst results in a by-election since 1945

Not a single Lib Dem MP came to Newark to campaign, according to Watts, a stark signal the party saw the by-election as a wasted effort.

According to The Daily Telegraph the most senior Lib Dem to visit the constituency was Lord Newby, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords.

John Pugh, the Lib Dem MP who called for Nick Clegg to be replaced as leader in the wake of the party's dismal European and local election results last month, told the BBC that the party did not even have a campaign HQ in the constituency.

A Lib Dem source told The Huffington Post: "Newark was 9th lost deposit since 2010. We used to be the by-election party and now, well, we just about held off a stiff challenge from Nick the Flying Brick."

In contrast, the Conservative party ordered everything single MP to the East Midlands to campaign for the seat, which they won comfortably despite a challenge from Ukip's Roger Helmer

Both Labour and Lib Dem figures also claimed that many of their core voters had tactically voted Tory, to keep out Nigel Farage's "People's Army".

One Newark voter is quoted as saying: "I've never voted Tory in my life, but I'm not having those bastards [Ukip] getting in."

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Robert Jenrick, the Conservative candidate for Newark, celebrates victory

Watts polled 1,004 votes for the Lib Dems, or 2.59%, behind Independent candidate Paul Baggaley, who campaigned to save the local hospital, and Green candidate David Kirwan. It was the ninth time the Lib Dems have lost their deposit in a by-election since 2010.

"Well it wasn't a good result," Watts said, frankly."But smaller parties often get squeezed in by-elections and that's what's happened to us here.

"We knew from talking to people today that a lot of our voters had transferred to vote against Ukip to make sure Ukip didn't get elected and some have clearly gone to Paul's campaign on the hospital which is a very important campaign."

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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."

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Though Labour spinners played down the significance of the result in safe Tory territory, the night was not a good one for Ed Miliband. With one year to go until the general election, and in a seat Labour won in 1997, the party's Michael Payne came in third with 6,842 votes, or 17%.

Labour's Chris Bryant, who ran the party's campaign, played down the significance of his party's third place in a seat it briefly held in the Blair era. "It's a completely different constituency from 1997, when there was a large former mining town in the constituency, so this is not prime territory for the Labour Party," he said.

"This is the 44th safest Conservative seat in the country," he continued. "There are cabinet ministers who wouldn't be MPs if they were to lose seats like this.

"They didn't just throw the kitchen sink at it - they threw the butlers' sink, they threw the crockery, all the silverware, the Aga, the butler, the home help, everything at it. I think this really shows that the Conservatives - who haven't won a general election since 1992 - still haven't got a winning streak with them."

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