RESULT: Con HOLD with 45 per cent of the vote, 7,403 majority over UKIP. Labour 3rd, LDs 6th with 2.6 per cent of the vote.
This is a positive result for the Conservative Party. Newark’s voters have endorsed our excellent candidate Robert Jenrick and backed our long-term economic plan that is securing a better future for Britain – in the first by-election we have won as a governing party for 25 years.
People here chose not to risk the recent progress we’ve made as a Government with another party – in particular they gave absolutely no backing to Labour, who have come a poor third. This was a seat Labour won when they took power in 1997. It is where they should win if they are connecting with the voters who would deliver them victory next year – as when we won Crewe and Norwich North before the last General Election, or when Labour won South East Staffordshire in 1996.
As Ed Balls told the BBC on Monday, ‘if you are a One Nation party wanting to win right across the country every seat matters. And that’s why this Newark by-election is very important’.
This result is confirmation voters do not embrace Mr Miliband and that Labour do not have the answers to the challenges our country faces.
On UKIP’s performance
· UKIP wanted to win this contest to gain a foothold in Westminster but Mr Farage bottled it. He called himself a warrior at the head of a people’s army – but his failure to stand here and UKIP’s failure to win show that these are more empty words.
· UKIP’s vote share was lower than they won in Eastleigh last year, and it follows the local elections where their vote share slipped back on last year’s performance (Eastleigh – 27.8 per cent; Newark – 25.9 per cent).
On Labour’s performance
· Labour won this seat in 1997 with 23,000 votes – 45 per cent of the total. Even in 2005, the last time Labour won a General Election, they won over 15,000 votes and a 34 per cent vote share. This time they won nearly 7,000 votes and an 18 per cent vote share.
· To gain this seat Labour needed a smaller swing to win here (15.8 per cent) than we achieved in Crewe and Nantwich (17.55 per cent) or in Norwich North (16.5 per cent). It’s even a smaller swing than what Labour achieved in the by-elections they gained from us in the 3 years before the 1997 election: Dudley West (29.1 per cent); South East Staffordshire (22.1 per cent); and Wirral South (17.2 per cent).
· No party has ever gained power at a General Election without gaining at least 2 constituencies in by-elections in the previous parliament. Labour have only made 1 gain this parliament.
· Between 1992 and 1997, Labour gained the safe Conservative seats of Wirral South, South East Staffordshire and Dudley West, that had all been held by the Conservatives for over 10 years. Labour have gained one seat this Parliament – which they had only just lost at the 2010 election.
· The last time Labour slipped from 2nd to 3rd in a by-election as the main opposition party was Beaconsfield in 1982 when Michael Foot was leader and a year before losing the General Election to the Conservatives.
· Tonight, independent election expert John Curtice said: ‘Labour do not have the enthusiasm and depth of support in the electorate that make them look like an alternative government’.
· He also said: ‘It is not the sign of a party making progress, but a party which seems to be in retreat and now retreating so far that if it goes any further, then there will be question marks about its ability to win the next General Election.’
· And this evening, Labour MP Simon Danczuk said of Labour: ‘the public don’t understand what we have to say.’
On Lib Dem performance
Clearly they were never going to win this seat. This result is extremely poor for the Lib Dems and reflects a general feeling towards a party which is becoming increasingly irrelevant.