Ukip has its second elected MP after Mark Reckless won the Rochester and Strood by-election he triggered by defecting from the Conservatives.
He won 16,867 votes, 2,920 more than Tory candidate Kelly Tolhurst. Labour’s Naushabah Khan was third with 6,713 votes while the Greens came fourth with 1,692 and the Lib Dems were a distant fifth as they lost their deposit with just 349 votes.
What's the significance?
The manner of victory was not quite as stunning as seen in the Clacton by-election by Reckless’s fellow Tory-Ukip defector Douglas Carswell.
But as Reckless alluded to in his acceptance speech, Rochester and Strood had previously only been regarded by Ukip as its 271st most winnable seat in 2015.
If Ukip can win here, we can win across the country. If you vote Ukip you get Ukip. We will give you back your country.
- Mark Reckless
The result is also personally embarrassing for David Cameron, writes the Independent’s Oliver Wright, after the prime minister vowed to “throw the kitchen sink” at Rochester to avoid a second damaging by-election defeat, ordering Tory MPs to make at least three campaigning stops to the constituency.
When I think about this campaign, the prime minister has come to this constituency five times and 1,000 activists were out there in this constituency, and there was a Conservative telephone poll campaign of astonishing proportions.
When they said they would throw the kitchen sink at this by-election, they did.
- Ukip leader Nigel Farage
Privately, senior Tories were resigned to losing Clacton owing to Carswell’s own personal following, but Reckless was not regarded as having the same levels of support.
Not just a bad night for the Tories...
Somehow, however, Labour did its best to spare Cameron front page embarrassment when shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry resigned after tweeting this photo and was accused of showing contempt to working class voters.
What happens now?
It remains to be seen whether two Ukip by-election victories will prompt any further Tory defections. The Tory leadership will nevertheless be confident it can regain Rochester and Strood at the general election.
Tory party chairman Grant Shapps said: “The future of this country wasn't on the ballot paper yesterday. It will be in 170 days' time.”
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