David Cameron has denied that the Conservatives’ thrashing in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election represents a “breakthrough” for Labour, which held the seat comfortably with 55 per cent of the vote, or Ukip, which forced his party into third place.
Former councillor Mike Kane won the Greater Manchester constituency for Labour, polling 13,261 votes, while the UK Independence Party surged from fifth place to second despite leader Nigel Farage complaining the campaign had been “as dirty as they come”.
The Eurosceptic party’s success and the 11 per cent decline in the Tory vote was yet another by-election blow to the Prime Minister, who saw his candidate defeated by Ukip for the sixth time since the 2010 general election.
But the Liberal Democrats were dealt a humiliating blow when they polled just 1,176 votes – not enough to hold their deposit.
The by-election was brought about by the sudden death of serving MP Paul Goggins on January 7, at the age of 60.
In his victory speech, Mr Kane said voters had “sent a very clear message” to the Government.
“They have rejected the failed policies of the out-of-touch Tories, they have rejected the isolationism and scaremongering of Ukip.
“It’s a result which emphatically demonstrates that people here know the NHS is not safe in David Cameron’s hands, and that we’ve had enough of his utterly out-of-touch Government.”
But Mr Cameron said the Tories were never expecting to do well in a rock-solid Labour seat.
“Obviously, the Wythenshawe by-election was in a very safe Labour seat and there was never much doubt about the result,” the Conservative leader told ITV1’s Daybreak. “When people know that there is a by-election they know that the Government isn’t going to change, but obviously messages are sent and signals are sent and protests are made. Government should always listen to those and I always do.
“Obviously, one would prefer to come second rather than third, but I don’t think this is a particularly surprising result in Labour holding this seat.
“I don’t think it was the sort of breakthrough that people were talking about.”