Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party held the parliamentary seat of Newark, seeing off a challenge from the U.K. Independence Party and breaking a 25-year run of losing special elections while in office.
The Conservative candidate, Robert Jenrick, received 17,431 votes, with UKIP’s Roger Helmer gaining 10,028. David Watts, candidate for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrat Party, placed sixth with 1,004 votes. That was less than 5 percent of the total, meaning he forfeited the 500 pounds ($840) he had to pay to run in the election.
The result is a boost for Cameron after the Conservatives were beaten into third place in elections for the European Parliament last month, in which UKIP finished first. The Tories last won a special election while in government in 1989, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. For this contest, they took no chances, with lawmakers, activists and cabinet ministers visiting daily to knock on doors and phone voters.
“The job isn’t finished yet but we are on the right track,” Cameron told reporters in northern France, where he is attending ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II D-Day allied landings. “We need to work around the clock between now and the next election to say very clearly we have got a long-term plan, we are getting Britain back to work, we are cutting people’s taxes, we are helping hard-working people.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said his party had surged in the voting, though not enough to overcome the Conservative Party’s advantage going into the race.
“The Conservatives were 25,000 votes ahead of us here in 2010,” he was quoted by the Press Association newswire as saying before the final votes were tallied. “The people’s army is getting more professional and better at what it does.”
The main opposition Labour Party came third with 6,842 votes, or 17 percent of the total, a drop of 4.6 percentage points from their performance in the district in 2010.
“This is obviously a tremendous morale-booster for Cameron, at a timely moment,” said Rob Ford, co-author of “Revolt on the Right,” a study of UKIP. “It means Cameron can go to the party and say it’s been tough, but we’ve shown we can hold the seats we have -- now let’s go and try and win some.”
The election in Newark, in central England, was forced by the resignation of Conservative lawmaker Patrick Mercer following a lobbying scandal.
A victory for UKIP, which wants Britain to leave the EU and a crackdown on immigration, would have given the party its first House of Commons seat. The next general election is due to be held in May.
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