4 Mar 2011

Barnsley by-election: Labour win, Lib Dems sixth

Labour win the by-election in Barnsley Central, one of the party’s safest seats. But the Liberal Democrats slide to sixth place behind UKIP, the British National Party and a local independent.

Labour wins Barnsley by-election (Reuters)

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

Dan Jarvis, a former army major, won the seat for Labour as expected, with a majority of 11,771 – up from 11,093 in 2010 despite a lower turnout, which slid from 56.5 per cent at the General Election to 36.5 per cent.

But the “kicking” received by the Liberal Democrats, who finished sixth – down from second in the General Election vote in Barnsley – surprised many.

The party finished behind not only Labour and the Conservatives but also UKIP, the British National Party and a local independent. Their candidate Dominic Carman lost his deposit after only securing just under 4.2 per cent of the vote.

The Coalition parties didn’t do very well here. Surprise, surprise. Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron

Liberal Democrat 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 per cent of people didn’t think it was worth bothering.”

He acknowledged: “There’s nothing more laughable than a politician who’s got a kicking pretending it’s alright.”

The by-election was also a poor result for the Conservatives, who were pushed into third by UKIP, prompting UKIP leader Nigel Farage to proclaim his party was the true voice of opposition in British politics and the only option for Eurosceptic Tories.

New MP Mr Jarvis said the election result was a message to Nick Clegg and David Cameron.

‘Message to the Coalition’

“The people of Barnsley Central are sending the strongest possible message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Your reckless policies, your broken promises and your unfair cuts are letting our country down,” he said in his acceptance speech.

“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 17.3 per cent to 4.2 per cent, the Tories’ from 17.3 per cent to 8.3 per cent. Mr Jarvis increased Labour’s vote share from 47.3 per cent to 60.8 per cent.

UKIP, which came fifth last year, saw their share of the vote surge from 4.7 per cent to 12.2 per cent. The BNP came fourth – the same position as last May – but with a smaller share of the vote.