|Mike Thornton MP and some of the team|
Local Libdem Council group leader Geoff Juby had this to say:
The general public have recognised the hard work that the Liberal Democrats have done, not only on Eastleigh borough council but also within the Coalition. We have delivered tax breaks to everyone and dulled the Tory cuts for millions of hard working families.
We are delighted for our candidate and glad that the hard work put in by all our dedicated members has been rewarded. This shows that the British Public have not been fooled by the adverse press coverage the Libdems have been subjected to over the past weeks and that the people of Eastleigh have confidence that in Mike Thornton they will have a hard working member of parliament.
This was always going to be a tough bi-election with a straight fight between the two Coalition parties. As their two party machines have printed on many occasions - Labour can't win here, and having lived in the Eastleigh/Winchester area for some eight years I can concur.
Had the Tories won it we would have shown exactly how much trouble the Libdems were in nationally. Locally there is a Libdem council with hard working councillors so for there to be a swing to the Blues would have been somewhat disastrous.
It can be argued (somewhat successfully) that the two Media stories pumped out - One that I saw re-posted by many Conservative MPs (including ex MP Louise Mensch) that the Libdems wanted to tax your grandparent's jewellery - which was of course nonsensical, and of course the Lord Rennard scandal, were pumped out on purpose. Indeed there has been some real bile published in the Daily Mail as well as scathing comments in the Tory Red tops recently. However the swing was not enough for the Conservatives.
It shows that the public, as Geoff said, it is validation of all the hard work that the Liberal Democrats have done in Parliament and of the benefits to hard working families including cutting income tax, pupil premiums, making student loans easier to pay back over a longer period of time as well as making university easier for those from a low income background (borne out in this year's UCAS figures) and many more social policies to make Britain fairer. We are still defined against the background of Conservative cuts and George Osbornes's economic policy which is now beginning to fail.
The big surprise for me, and indeed for Maria Hutchins, is that UKIP have come in second with 11,571 votes (some 2000 behind the Libdems and 1000 more than the Tories with a 19.3% swing from the Libdems!)
Geoff also outlined:
This was so obviously a protest vote against all the main parties. If any lessons are to be learnt I think that they have to apply to politicians of all parties as has been shown repeatedly over the past few years.
Indeed it does show that people are discontent with the big three parties and that, prior to 2010 when the Liberals were the protest vote, the rise of UKIP can be put in the protest vote.
If the Conservatives hadn't split our vote we would have won.What happened here in Eastleigh was not a freak result. Something is changing. People are sick and tired of having three social democrat parties that are frankly indistinguishable from each other
I think he's definitely right and as Geoff said, politicians of all parties (especially the Conservatives) are going to have to address this trend. Who knows, the next government could be a Conservative-UKIP coalition!
Any way - I'd like to add my voice to the other Congratulations to Mike Thornton MP for his victory last night as well as to the teams of Libdem activists, MPs and Lord Ashdown who hit the streets of Eastleigh in the proceeding weeks - I've seen the tweets and blogposts, you guys worked really hard and I'm just sorry I couldn't get down there to help.