A very bad night for the Lib Dems in Barnsley

Clegg's party are pushed into sixth place and lose their deposit.

Byelections, so often an occasion for Lib Dem joy, have become an occasion for Lib Dem woe. Last night, in Barnsley Central, they were pushed into sixth place and lost their £500 deposit after winning just 4.18 per cent of the vote (down 13.10 per cent since the general election). It's hard to overstate what a humiliating result this is. Having finished second in the seat at the general election, the party now sits behind UKIP, the Tories, the BNP and independent candidate Tony Devoy.

As ever, one should be wary of drawing national conclusions from a byelection, but the result is further evidence that the Lib Dems' northern vote has collapsed and that they are bearing the brunt of the anti-cuts backlash (see Olly Grender's blog for some of the lessons the party can learn).

Labour's strong performance (their vote share is up 13.53 per cent since the general election) comes as no surprise. Given that the former constituency MP, Eric Illsley, has already been sentenced to twelve months in prison for expenses fraud, there was no reason for voters to punish the party last night.

Percentage of the Vote

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Of the remaining parties, it's UKIP that will be most encouraged. Their share of the vote rose by 7.53 per cent and they pushed the Conservatives into third place. The evidence that there are votes to be won by running to the right of the Tories will undoubtedly increase the pressure on David Cameron to promote a more distinctly conservative agenda in government.

Here's the result in full.

Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724 (60.80%, +13.53%)

Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953 (12.19%, +7.53%)

James Hockney (Con) 1,999 (8.25%, -9.01%)

Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463 (6.04%, -2.90%)

Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266 (5.23%, +3.58%)

Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012 (4.18%, -13.10%)

Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544 (2.25%)

Howling Laud Hope (Monster Raving Loony Party) 198 (0.82%)

Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60 (0.25%)

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Sadiq Khan is probably London's new mayor - what will happen in a Tooting by-election?

There will be a by-election in the new mayor's south London seat.

At the time of writing, Sadiq Khan appears to have a fairly comfortable lead over Zac Goldsmith in the London mayoral election. Which means (at least) two (quite) interesting things are likely to happen: 1) Sadiq Khan is going to be mayor, and 2) there is going to be a by-election in Tooting.

Unlike the two parliamentary by-elections in Ogmore and Sheffield that Labour won at a canter last night, the south London seat of Tooting is a genuine marginal. The Conservatives have had designs on the seat since at least 2010, when the infamous ‘Tatler Tory’, Mark Clarke, was the party’s candidate. Last May, Khan narrowly increased his majority over the Tories, winning by almost 3,000 votes with a majority of 5.3 per cent. With high house prices pushing London professionals further out towards the suburbs, the seat is gentrifying, making Conservatives more positive about the prospect of taking the seat off Labour. No government has won a by-election from an opposition party since the Conservative Angela Rumbold won Mitcham and Morden from a Labour-SDP defector in June 1982. In a nice parallel, that seat borders Tooting.

Of course, the notion of a Tooting by-election will not come as a shock to local Conservatives, however much hope they invested in a Goldsmith mayoral victory. Unusually, the party’s candidate from the general election, Dan Watkins, an entrepreneur who has lived in the area for 15 years, has continued to campaign in the seat since his defeat, styling himself as the party’s “parliamentary spokesman for Tooting”. It would be a big surprise if Watkins is not re-anointed as the candidate for the by-election.

What of the Labour side? For some months, those on the party’s centre-left have worried with varying degrees of sincerity that Ken Livingstone may see the by-election as a route back into Parliament. Having spent the past two weeks muttering conspiratorially about the relationship between early 20th-Century German Jews and Adolf Hitler before having his Labour membership suspended, that possibility no longer exists.

Other names talked about include: Rex Osborn, leader of the Labour group on Wandsworth Council; Simon Hogg, who is Osborn’s deputy; Rosena Allin-Khan, an emergency medicine doctor who also deputises for Osborn; Will Martindale, who was Labour’s defeated candidate in Battersea last year; and Jayne Lim, who was shortlisted earlier in the year for the Sheffield Brightside selection and used to practise as a doctor at St George’s hospital in Tooting.

One thing that any new Labour MP would have to contend with is the boundary review reporting in 2018, which will reduce the number of London constituencies by 5. This means that a new Tooting MP could quickly find themselves pitched in a selection fight for a new constituency with their neighbours Siobhan McDonagh, who currently holds Mitcham and Morden, and/or Chuka Umunna, who is the MP for Streatham. 

According to the Sunday Times, Labour is planning to hold the by-election as quickly as possible, perhaps even before the EU referendum on June 23rd.

It's also worth noting that, as my colleague Anoosh Chakelian reported in March, George Galloway plans to stand as well.

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.