Friday, 4 March 2011

Barnsley Central by-election sounds death knell for Lib Dems

Labour has won the Barnsley Central by-election, while the Lib Dems slipped to sixth in the South Yorkshire seat. UKIP, the Conservatives, the BNP and an independent all finished ahead of the Lib Dems, who had finished second in the seat in 2010's general election. Lib Dem candidate Dominic Carman said his party had been given "a kicking", while Labour's victorious Dan Jarvis said it was a message to the coalition. The contest followed the former Labour MP's resignation over his expenses.

At the general election Eric Illsley had held Barnsley Central with a majority of just over 11,000 and 47% of the vote, with the Liberal Democrats in second place. But the MP resigned his seat after pleading guilty to falsely claiming £14,000 in parliamentary expenses. He was later jailed for a year. The turnout in the by-election was 36.5%, compared with 56.4% at the last general election.

Labour took 60.8% of the vote, UKIP's Jane Collins 12.19%, the Conservatives' James Hockney 8.25%, the BNP's Enis Dalton 6.04%, Independent Tony Devoy 5.23% and the Liberal Democrats' Dominic Carman 4.18%. Mr Carman lost his deposit. He said: "The voters here in Barnsley have given me and the Liberal Democrats a kicking. We can take it."

Also speaking at the count, Lib Dem 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," he added.

Mr Jarvis, a 38-year-old former soldier, said the people of Barnsley Central were sending the "strongest possible message" to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. "Your reckless policies, your broken promises and unfair cuts are letting our country down," he said. "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." UKIP leader Nigel Farage said on Twitter: "Brilliant result! We are the voice of the opposition."

The by-election is only the second since the coalition government took power last May, the other being January's contest for Oldham East and Saddleworth which Labour also won comfortably. BBC political reporter Robin Brant said the Barnsley Central result was humiliating for Nick Clegg who would see it as a first sign of the battering his party could expect in some parts of the country as the Coalition's cuts start to bite.

Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724
Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953
James Hockney (C) 1,999
Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463
Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266
Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012
Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198
Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60
Lab maj 11,771: Turnout 37%