New video: Humiliation for Clegg as Lib Dems finish sixth in Barnsley by-election

THE coalition was dealt a major by-election blow in Barnsley Central today as the Liberal Democrats finished a woeful sixth place and the Tories were overtaken by the UK Independence Party.

In a humiliating result for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, his party finished behind not only Labour and the Conservatives but also Ukip, the British National Party and a local independent.

There was also embarrassment for Prime Minister David Cameron as the Tories saw their vote share slump dramatically and the anti-Brussels Ukip beat them into third.

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Labour cruised as expected to a resounding victory in what is one of the party’s safest seats.

Newly-elected MP Dan Jarvis, a former army major, increased Labour’s majority from 11,093 to 11,771, despite a much lower turnout than in last May’s general election.

Only 36.5% of registered voters cast their ballots, down from 56.45% last year.

The Lib Dems - whose candidate Dominic Carman lost his deposit after securing a meagre 4.18% vote share - admitted they had been given a “kicking”.

Party president Tim Farron said: “It was a poor result for us. It was a poor result for the Tories. The coalition parties didn’t do very well here. Surprise, surprise.”

“Dan Jarvis will be a good MP, I’m sure, and it would be churlish not to congratulate him.

“But perhaps the biggest story is that 70% of people didn’t think it was worth bothering.”

Mr Farron suggested the Lib Dems, who finished second in the same constituency in last year’s general election - had been “concertinaed”.

“But at this time of the evening, there’s nothing more laughable than a politician who’s got a kicking pretending it’s all right,” he acknowledged.

The extent of the Lib Dems’ slide surpassed all predictions, with advance speculation suggesting that one or both of the BNP and Ukip might overhaul Mr Clegg’s party.

To be beaten also by an independent candidate with no party machine behind him - unemployed ex-miner Tony Devoy - is particularly embarrassing for the Lib Dems.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the result marked a major shift in the electoral landscape with the Lib Dems losing their status as the established third party.

“This marks a big change for us. We are now the voice of opposition in British politics. The Lib Dems have lost that mantle,” he said.

“And, if you’re a Eurosceptic Tory you are now realising that Mr Cameron’s government isn’t providing anything for you at all.”

Mr Jarvis - a former member of the Parachute Regiment who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan - said Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg were paying the price for their “reckless policies”.

“The people of Barnsley Central are sending the strongest possible message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg,” he said in his acceptance speech.

“Your reckless policies, your broken promises and your unfair cuts are letting our country down.

“I grew up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. I remember how angry it made me feel. Whole communities abandoned to unemployment, public services run down, talents wasted, opportunities taken away.

“Thatcher was wrong then and Cameron is wrong now.”

The Lib Dems’ vote share in Barnsley Central fell from 17.28% to 4.18%, the Tories’ from 17.26% to 8.25%.

Mr Jarvis increased Labour’s vote share from 47.26% to 60.8%.

Ukip, which came fifth last year, saw their share of the vote surge from 4.67% to 12.19%.

The BNP came fourth - the same position as last May - but with a smaller share of the vote.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of Eric Illsley, the Labour MP who was jailed for 12 months in February for expenses fraud.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown said the party needed to hold its nerve and stick with the coalition.

“We need to keep a sense of proportion. It is not unusual for parties to take a hammering when they are in government,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“These are tough times, they are going to be difficult for the party, it is not going to be easy, this is a moment when we have to stand firm.

“We have got to have the discipline and toughness to stand there and do what needs to be done and take the flak for that while this country gets through the most difficult economic crisis it has faced for 40 or 50 years.

“The dividend for this is not going to come now, it is not going to come next year, it will come when we have pulled this country through its present economic crisis.

“It is in the party’s interests to do what is in the nation’s interests and that is what we are doing. If we did not do that, if we were not now fulfilling the function of trying to get the country out of the mess that it is in, we would do the party, in my view, far more damage.”

Press Association analysis of the Barnsley Central result suggests that if the by-election voting trend was repeated across the country at a general election, Labour would have a Commons majority of 124.

Liberal Democrats would be reduced from 57 to 30 MPs.

Result

Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724 (60.80%, +13.53%)

Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953 (12.19%, +7.53%)

James Hockney (C) 1,999 (8.25%, -9.01%)

Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463 (6.04%, -2.90%)

Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266 (5.23%, +3.58%)

Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012 (4.18%, -13.10%)

Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544 (2.25%)

Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198 (0.82%)

Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60 (0.25%)

Lab maj 11,771 (48.60%)

3.00% swing UKIP to Lab

Electorate 65,461; Turnout 24,219 (37.00%, -19.46%)

2010: Lab maj 11,093 (29.98%) - Turnout 37,001 (56.45%)

Illsley (Lab) 17,487 (47.26%); Wiggin (LD) 6,394 (17.28%); Tempest

(C) 6,388 (17.26%); Sutton (BNP) 3,307 (8.94%); Silver (UKIP) 1,727

(4.67%); Wood (Ind) 732 (1.98%); Devoy (Ind) 610 (1.65%); Robinson

(Soc Lab) 356 (0.96%)