Douglas Carswell retained 92% of the vote he won as a Conservative in 2010. Photo: Getty.
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Ukip wins Clacton and nearly wins Heywood & Middleton

Douglas Carswell becomes Ukip's first elected MP, while the party almost wins a second seat.

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There was only one winner tonight: Ukip.

Douglas Carswell became the party’s first ever MP. He won 60 per cent of his seat, easily the most resounding win in a by-election since 2010.

In doing so he kept hold of 92 per cent of the votes he won as a Conservative in 2010, dealing a resounding, if expected, blow to the government.

But the far more unexpected story was how close Ukip came to winning a second MP. They fell short of doing so by just 617 votes in Heywood & Middleton, a northern seat tucked to the west of Rochdale and north of Manchester.

Earlier in the week we had predicted polls showing a 20 point Labour lead were too optimistic, and forecast a 6 point victory. In the end the party prevailed by 2.3 per cent, winning 40.9 per cent to Ukip 38.7 per cent.

Labour figures tried to point to how their vote increased, but they added less than 1 per cent to the total their previous MP, Jim Dobbin, won in 2010. Ukip won 36 points more than they did four years ago.

As in South Shields, the party won large parts of the electorate when they had no foothold in the area to build on. Their prospects in seats that are more favourable to them – as in Ed Miliband’s seat of Doncaster North, where right-wing parties won 17 per cent of the vote in 2010 – are daunting for Labour.

A recent Fabian report suggested the party are at risk of losing 18 seats they won in 2010 because of Ukip, either directly or through the help they hand the Tories in Labour-Tory marginals. Ukip are also threatening their chances of winning four Tory seats, the report argues.

More attention is likely to be paid to the data in the wake of last night’s results. We will be gathering and analysing it, along with Ashcroft’s marginal polls and all the latest polls, on our new elections site –

May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

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En français, s'il vous plaît! EU lead negotiator wants to talk Brexit in French

C'est très difficile. 

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks, Theresa May said: "Nous sommes solidaires avec vous, nous sommes tous ensemble." ("We are in solidarity with you, we are all together.")

But now the Prime Minister might have to brush up her French and take it to a much higher level.

Reuters reports the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like to hold the talks in French, not English (an EU spokeswoman said no official language had been agreed). 

As for the Home office? Aucun commentaire.

But on Twitter, British social media users are finding it all très amusant.

In the UK, foreign language teaching has suffered from years of neglect. The government may regret this now . . .

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.