As Labour retains three seats following votes in Middlesbrough, Rotherham and Croydon, the spotlight turns to the performance of Ukip which recorded its best ever showing in a by-election.

Labour sweeps three by-election victories (Getty)

Labour is celebrating a clean sweep in three parliamentary by-elections in Rotherham, Middlesbrough and Croydon North.

But UK Independence Party (Ukip) celebrations were perhaps bigger, as it took second place in Middlesbrough and Rotherham, recording its best ever by-election result in Rotherham, where its candidate secured 21.8 per cent of the vote.

It was a dismal night for both coalition parties, with the Conservatives slumping to fourth in Middlesbrough and fifth in Rotherham.

The Liberal Democrats held onto third place behind Ukip in Middlesbrough, but finished fourth and lost its deposit in Croydon.

It suffered a woeful eighth place in Rotherham, where its candidate Michael Beckett lost his deposit and limped in behind not only Labour, Ukip, the British National Party, Respect and the Conservatives but also the English Democrats and an Independent.

'Big progress'

For Ukip leader Nigel Farage, the results marked "big progress" just a fortnight after his party recorded its previous best by-election result of 14.3 per cent in Corby.

His party was boosted in Rotherham by the controversy which blew up during the by-election campaign, when social workers removed three children from foster parents because the couple were members of Ukip.

In Middlesbrough, the Eurosceptic party moved up from sixth position in the 2010 general election to second with 11.8 per cent of votes.

"Whichever way you look at it, Ukip is on the rise," said Mr Farage. Speaking after her victory, Rotherham's new Labour MP Sarah Champion urged the government to get the town "back to work".

"I've never stood for election before, but when I see the damage David Cameron is doing to Rotherham I cannot stand and watch," she said.

Ms Champion secured a comfortable majority of 5,218 on a turnout of 33.6 per cent to become the first female MP for a south Yorkshire seat which has been Labour since 1933.

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