News In Depth
Ukip surge sparks Tory despair
David Cameron has been urged to return to core Conservative values by backbenchers who warned of despair and disquiet in the party after its dismal performance in the Eastleigh by-election.
Liberal Democrats landed what Nick Clegg said was a "stunning victory" in the vote despite a turbulent week for the party amid allegations it failed to deal with claims of sexual harassment levelled at its former master strategist Lord Rennard.
But it was the surprise second place polled by the UK Independence Party (Ukip) in the contest that heaped humiliation on the Conservatives.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the result was "disappointing" but dismissed it as a mid-term protest and insisted he would not now lurch to the right.
Some of his backbenchers, however, took to the airwaves to call for a change in direction from the top of the party.
Conservative MP Eleanor Laing, who described herself as having been "utterly loyal" during her parliamentary career, said many Tories felt "hurt" by the way they were treated by the leadership.
"They feel hurt and they feel left out," she told Radio 4's The World At One programme. "They're told that they're old-fashioned and they think that they don't matter and that what they stand for, and what they believe in, doesn't matter."
She said MPs were "in despair" about the number of people who are resigning from the party.
"Inevitably, when the fortunes of the party are not as good as they ought to be, then there is some disquiet," she added.
Mike Thornton won the by-election - triggered by the resignation of the Lib Dem's 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.
The poll was a major test for the Lib Dems, after Huhne's guilty plea for passing driving penalty points to his wife, and the claims hitting the headlines about Lord Rennard.
Mr Clegg said the message for Lib Dems from the poll was that "we can be in government and still win".
He told activists in Eastleigh: "We held our nerve, we stood our ground... we overcame the odds and we won a stunning victory."
Tory Maria Hutchings polled 10,559 votes - more than 1,000 behind Ukip, which snatched huge chunks of the coalition parties' 2010 general election vote share, taking more than 27% of the total.
Speaking in 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: "It is a disappointing result for the Conservative Party, but it is clear that, in mid-term by-elections, people want to register a protest.
"But I am confident that at the general election we can win those people back by demonstrating that we are delivering for everyone who wants to work hard and wants to get on. That is what we will be focused on.
"I don't think we should tack this way, tack that way. What we have got to do is deliver for people who work hard, who want to get on, and deliver on the agenda that they care about and I care about."
Ukip leader Nigel Farage described the result as a "massive boost" and claimed Ukip would cause "an earthquake" in British politics.
"People will say it was a protest vote, but who we attracted here were non-voters who had not voted for 20 years - they are not protest votes," he said.
Labour's candidate, satirist and author John O'Farrell, polled 4,088 votes. Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Clearly I would have preferred to have got more votes than we did, but this was always going to be a tough fight for Labour - it's a seat that we've never won."
The Hampshire seat is one of a list of 20 Lib Dem-held constituencies Tories believe are crucial for the party to win in 2015 to secure an outright majority.
Sarah Newton, deputy chairwoman of the Conservative Party, raised eyebrows when she tried to put a gloss on the result by branding it "good for the coalition that the coalition has kept a seat".
Tory rebel Douglas Carswell said the drubbing showed that policy changes were needed and questioned why the party was on a "long march of defeat".
Adam Afriyie, a Tory MP recently claimed to have been planning a leadership campaign, wrote on the conservativehome blog that the result was "a wake-up call for all of us" but suggested "sometimes failure is needed to refocus the effort to succeed".
Bob Woollard, chairman of Conservative Grassroots, which was created on the back of opposition to the Government's plans for gay marriage, said the party must return to "core Conservative values" to stand a chance of winning in 2015.
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said the Tories and Ukip should start "having conversations" about ways to avoid splitting the eurosceptic vote and called for the parties to "stop calling each other names".
Mr Cameron once famously branded Ukip supporters "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists".
Conservative Party vice chairman Michael Fabricant, who was heavily involved in the Eastleigh campaign, warned that support for Ukip could not be dismissed as a protest vote and that the party had managed to "connect" with blue collar Tories.
"The Conservative voice is muffled and not crisp. It does not clearly project Conservative core policies or principles," he wrote on his Twitter page.
"With Ukip clearly announcing policies the public want to hear, we must do the same. 26 months to go (to the next general election) boys and girls..."
what do you think?
This man is deluded. He is at the point where he actually believes this rubbish. What hope have we?
"With Ukip clearly announcing policies the public want to hear, we must do the same. 26 months to go (to the next general election) boys and girls..." But could the electorate rely on them being pushed through or would the be just more empty promises More results like this and Ukip could be seen as a realistic choice at a general election at the expense of the conservatives
Dave are you sure Conservatives are failing to represent their core voters preferring to target middle of the road that all parties now seem to prefer - uKip may appeal to them initially as a protest vote If those core voter believe Ukip has a real chance more may defect destroying the conservative vote. There is not one of the major parties I would chose to represent me, I vote against parties not for a party
I agree with you Michael and I believe UKIP have the courage to fulfill their promises. Not U-turners like the Tories. I believe the majority of the UK people are totally fed up with what they are having to endure whilst Cameron and Osborne do what suits them. Wonder what the next daft idea he will come up with Marriage for our Pets? Time he got on with what needs doing and leaves the rest alone.
d and d Phillips
Clearly not enough h8omosexuals in Eastliegh then.
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said the Tories and Ukip should start "having conversations" about ways to avoid splitting the eurosceptic vote and called for the parties to "stop calling each other names". Spoil sport .... it's fun watching.
Well Cameron,thats another fine mess you got your self into.Heres a tip,LIISTEN TO THE PEOPLE,they are a lot wiser than you think.
Politics a big game--- at least Farage is more entertaining than Cameron, Clegg and Milliband. can we have a coalition of Farage, Boris Johnson and George Galloway then we can at least as a nation die laughing as we sink in the mire
fish41, That is brilliant, I'll vote for that!
Me too, bring it on!!
The last Liberal MP was a bit of fraud and is now in jail (I think) but a lot of people voted for the party that chose him. I think this tells you why the country is in terminal decline.
the only thing that will change is who sits at the front of the gravy train, while the population continues to gets sh@t on
I quote: "Backbenchers have urged David Cameron to return to core Conservative values" Can anyone enlighten me as to what these core values are? Perhaps squeezing the public's purse until the pips squeak?
Simple and yet difficult because the majority would like to see the clock turned back to : Before the day we signed the G.A.T.T agreement and to : Before the day we joined the EU and to : Before 22 July 1948 ( you`ll have look that one up ) Don`t worry if you are a modern liberal, it will not happen.
Haven't we learned from the conseqences of electing extreme parties that promoted so called 'populist' policies in Italy and Germany in the 1930s? They also appealed to the masses, mainly because they over-simplify issues and create fear in people's minds. You only need to look at the so-called 'moral crusades' in the less rational tabloids to see how they highjack issues and twist them round to suit their own political ends. Thought control is very dangerous.
Don`t you think that the Lib/Lab/Cons are a tad extreme ? Run down industries. Overpopulating the country. Tipping up millions to the EU -- for what ? Allowing violent criminals to walk the streets Wars that should not involve us.
"You only need to look at the so-called 'moral crusades' in the less rational tabloids to see how they highjack issues and twist them round to suit their own political ends. " And political parties in opposition do not do the same Politicians of all parties are in danger of being accused of being racist, sexist, homophobic etc. etc. if they suggest anything slightly radical how ever good it might be for the country. What we end up with is second rate yes men following second rate party leaders
I dont know what the rest of your post means Mike but you are sure right with " --- second rate party leaders ".
when you have sound economics and sensible policies ppl dont vote far right. i am proud to say i will vote bnp. am not racist but i see problems of excessive immigration the uk is full, bankrupt and overtaxed. housing is a problem and letting more eu economic migrants in will only worsen situation. time mp's listened to electorate and were not bribed by city sponsored think tanks and lobby groups.
good i am voting bnp or ukip in protest vote. we are swamped by immigrants that has pushed housing up beyond take home pay. at working mens club many are worried romanian and bulgarians will flood mega here and push housing costs up yet further, they are all voting bnp or ukip. the roads, hospitals, schools can't cope, the job situation is dire with technological integration alone before the recession is taken into account. the eu was doomed to fail and only a few american corporate chiefs want it. everyone on mainstreet hates uk politicians as they fail to deliver what the uk electorate truely wants. they are jumped up little twerps. and i hope they read this the left wing ones are the worst and need a kicking.
I think the Lib Dems are now ready to merge with Ukip as a coalition!! Then Ukip can shoot the Lib Dems and emerge Kings of England.
This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions.