MP stands by PM after slip to third in by-election vote

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MEON Valley Conservative MP George Hollingbery said the Tory party’s disappointing showing in the Eastleigh by-election would not affect the Prime Minister’s position.

Early this morning results from Fleming Park in Eastleigh showed that a late surge from the UK Independence Party had pushed the Conservatives into third place, with both trailing the Liberal Democrats.

The ballot papers being counted at Fleming Park in Eastleigh

The ballot papers being counted at Fleming Park in Eastleigh

The Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton won a 1,771 majority in the seat which was vacated when previous Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne resigned from Parliament after admitting he lied about asking his wife Vicky Pryce to take speeding points for him.

Mr Thornton polled 13,342 votes – a drop when compared to the 2010 General Election.

Ukip’s candidate Diane James was second on 11,571 – more than 1,000 ahead of Tory Maria Hutchings (10,559) in what many have seen as a blow to David Cameron.

However Mr Hollingbery who has been canvassing in the town and who was at the count, told a television station: ‘I do not think that it means a great deal for Mr Cameron... as you have seen a big swing from the Lib Dems to Ukip.’

Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery

Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery

Mr Hollingbery said that there was no simple answer to the voting patterns, but pointed to the strength of the Lib Dems in Eastleigh, where they run the council and hold all the borough council seats that fall within the parliamentary constituency.

He mentioned the ‘huge network’ of volunteers that the Lib Dems could draw upon, but added: ‘We have to think to ourselves that there’s something more complicated out there that needs analysis.’

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg tweeted: ‘Congratulations 
@Mike4Eastleigh: welcome to the team! We’re on track for 2015 now.’

Mr Thornton said it was ‘a great night for the Liberal Democrats nationally, a strong signal of support for Nick Clegg, an affirmation of our role working in the national interest within the coalition and a huge boost to our party’s mission in government to build a stronger economy in a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life’.

He said it showed those who had written off the Lib Dems had been proved wrong. ‘We have done it and we will do it again,’ he declared on stage.

Ms James hailed her second place as ‘a humongous political shock’ that represented a ‘seismic shift’ in politics.

Mrs Hutchings appeared to be fighting back tears as she thanked opponents for a ‘clean campaign’.