How have the party leaders reacted to the Rochester and Strood by-election result?


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The numbers have been crunched, the candidates' dreams crushed/realised, and the media circus in Rochester town centre is slowly disbanding. Now it's time to hear what the party leaders have to say about the result of the Rochester and Strood by-election.

Nigel Farage

He has been denying all day that Ukip is a "protest vote", and repeating the line: "If you vote Ukip, you get Ukip", and claiming, "people out there who vote Ukip intend to stay Ukip". He believes the number of seats Ukip could win in May 2015 has "probably doubled".

On the subject of further defections, he was rather reticent: “My guess is this: I think there’ll be a lot of sucking of teeth over the course of the next few weeks. There will be MPs who will work out actually they’ve got a better chance standing as Ukip. If they join us I’ll be delighted. If they don’t, frankly that doesn’t really matter.” And he has called the Labour party "anti-English", though expressed enthusiasm about the idea of Labour politicians defecting to Ukip.

The Ukip leader has also highlighted the near impossibility of predicting the outcome of the next election due to his party's apparently burgeoning success: “It means the whole thing is thrown up in the air. Anybody that now tries to attempt to predict what’ll happen next year frankly is wasting their time. It is now unpredictable beyond comprehension. This was seat number 271 on Ukip’s target list. We’ve shown here that if you vote Ukip you get Ukip and I think the consequences are very difficult to predict.”

David Cameron

The Prime Minister was keen to emphasise his party's chances of snatching the seat back next May: “The result was closer than the pollsters had predicted. I am absolutely determined to win this seat back at the next general election because anything other than a Conservative government will put our recovery at risk and Ed Miliband in Downing Street. I am more determined than ever to deliver security for Britain.”

And he also couldn't resist a dig at Ed Miliband via the Emily Thornberry story: “Emily Thornberry is one of Ed Miliband’s closest allies and aides,” he said. “Effectively what this means is that Ed Miliband’s Labour party sneers at people who work hard, who are patriotic and who love their country, and I think that is absolutely appalling.”

Ed Miliband

He's expressed a great deal of anger, both directly and briefed by his aides, towards the now former shadow attorney general for her fateful tweet. “That is not my view, that is not Labour’s view, that will never be Labour’s view,” he said of the picture she tweeted of a Strood resident's white van and St George's flags.

However, what comes out of acting hysterically, as I believe he did over this relatively small-fry social media misdemeanor, is some rather hyperbolic rhetoric: "What goes through my mind is respect, respect is the basic rule of politics. I'm afraid her tweet conveyed a sense of disrespect. This is a party that was founded for working people. That's why I was angry. That's why it's right she's gone."

Miliband is now being roundly mocked on Twitter for these comments, compounded by the fact that, when asked in an interview what goes through his mind when he sees such an image of a white van, he replied: "respect". Will the Twitter jokes become too much for his position to remain tenable?

Nick Clegg

On LBC's Call Clegg, which was moved forward to yesterday morning due to the by-election, all he could really say was,  “we weren’t going to sweep to victory.” He has left the fall-out from the Lib Dems' worst ever by-election result, 0.9 per cent of the vote, to the party's president Tim Farron today, who is doing a valiant job of warning against a Britain ruled by one of the two main parties without the Lib Dems.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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