Eastleigh result was a stunning victory, says Clegg

 

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has hailed his party's success in the Eastleigh by-election, telling activists in the Hampshire town: “We held our nerve, we stood our ground... we overcame the odds and we won a stunning victory.”

The Lib Dems held off a late surge by the UK Independence Party (Ukip) to win the by-election in the early hours of this morning, but Prime Minister David Cameron was dealt a serious blow as the Conservatives were pushed into third place.

Visiting Eastleigh to congratulate his party's new MP, Mike Thornton, Mr Clegg said the message for Lib Dems from the poll was that “we can be in government and still win”.

Jubilant Lib Dem president Tim Farron said the result meant that 20-30 Tory seats were now vulnerable to the party in the 2015 general election.

But Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove insisted that the party would not be blown off course by its defeat and would resist backbench calls for a shift to the right on issues like immigration and gay marriage.

“What we need to demonstrate is that the course that we have set is producing results,” Mr Gove told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“If people think you are changing policy in order to take account of a by-election or to play party politics, that is when the problems arise and people think 'Do you know what? We smell inauthenticity here'.”

Mr Thornton won the by-election - triggered by the resignation of disgraced ex-Cabinet minister Chris Huhne - with 13,342 votes, a majority of 1,771 over Ukip's Diane James, who said beating the Tories was a “humongous” shock which represented a “seismic shift” in UK politics.

Addressing cheering supporters at Hampshire Cricket Club's Ageas Bowl ground in the constituency, Mr Clegg said: "This has been a by-election we've had to fight in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Our opponents have thrown everything at us.

"We held our nerve, we stood our ground, we worked as a team, we went out and campaigned on every doorstep, we overcame the odds and won a stunning victory.

"In the past, I think people have sometimes made quite exaggerated claims about the political significance about individual by-elections, and of course I'll leave it up to the Labour and Conservative Parties to explain or seek to explain their very poor results last night.

"But for the Liberal Democrats, my view is the message is very simple: We can be a party of government and still win."

Mr Clegg said that when the Lib Dems entered coalition with the Tories, critics said they would "lose our soul, lose our values, lose our identity, lose our ability to win".

He added: "Last night we proved those critics are emphatically wrong."

Mr Clegg said: "My ambition has always been to lead our party from opposition into being a party of government, but not just that, into becoming a winning party of government.

"That's what we proved last night and we proved it because we showed the people of Eastleigh... how we are delivering for them and their families, not just locally but nationally too."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said success in the polls was not the result of a protest vote, but because his party connects with people who want it to speak for them.

He told ITV's Daybreak: "If people who have not voted for 20 or 30 years go out to the ballot box in a by-election and vote, that by definition cannot be a protest vote.

"It is people saying, 'Ukip, speak for me', and they are re-engaging with the democratic process. That is a long, long way away from a protest vote."

The Tories are wasting their time in working class towns and cities, he said, as they cannot connect with working-class voters because they are run by "as one of their own MPs said, a bunch of posh boys who don't know the price of milk".

Mr Farage said he didn't stand for election because he wants to lead the Ukip party as a candidate into the European elections next year, where he wants to cause "an earthquake" in British politics.

Asked if Ukip will have enough support by 2015 to repeat its success in Eastleigh, Mr Farage said: "Clearly, what we have got to do as a party, we have to get more members, we have to get certainly in some of the weaker parts of the country up above critical mass.

"But I don't see why after this result this party won't continue to grow.

"What is really exciting about this result is so often the media has said Ukip is sort of a gingerbread group, we pick votes up off the Tory party - what we did here last night in Eastleigh, a third of our vote came from the Conservatives, but two thirds of it came from the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and from people who haven't voted for anybody for 20 or 30 years."

PA

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried