Ukip's Mark Reckless savours victory at Rochester and Strood
Conservatives braced for more defections after two by-election triumphs for Nigel Farage's party
The House of Commons now has two Ukip MPs after Mark Reckless secured a comfortable victory in the Rochester and Strood by-election.
The constituency's former Conservative MP defected to Ukip in September and has won back his seat with a 2,930 majority in a "bitter blow" for David Cameron.The final result was announced just after 4am this morning after a night of vote-counting in a large gym in Medway Park, Gillingham.Reckless beat the Tory Party's Kelly Tolhurst with 16,867 votes to 13,947. Labour's Naushabah Khan won 6,713 votes, while the Liberal Democrat's Geoff Juby won only 349, the lowest ever for the party in a by-election. The Green Party's Clive Gregory won 1,692.Meanwhile, Labour MP Emily Thornberry has resigned from the party's front bench after being accused of snobbery for sending a tweet of a house in Rochester with three England flags and a white van parked outside.
"It is not Ed Miliband but Ukip that represents the concerns of most working men and women," Reckless declared in his victory speech. "As we savour victory, think of this: Rochester and Strood was our 271st most winnable seat. If we can win here we can win across the country."
The Daily Telegraph says the win is "further evidence that Ukip's hold on British politics is strengthening". It comes six weeks after Douglas Carswell won the Clacton by-election with 60 per cent of the vote after defecting from the Conservatives to Ukip."Senior Tories are now braced for more MPs to choose to join Ukip ahead of the election," says the Telegraph. Party leader Nigel Farage proclaimed that Ukip was now the third force in British politics.But the BBC's Nick Robinson says that even two "spectacular" by-election victories are no guarantee of winning seats in a general election.
"Next May, Ukip's votes and resources could simply be spread too thin to get anywhere close to secure Nigel Farage's aim – the balance of power," says Robinson. "After Rochester, though, many may hesitate before betting against it."