Last updated: November 16, 2012 4:36 pm

Cameron plays down Corby by-election loss

David Cameron played down Labour’s success in the Corby by-election on Friday, dismissing it as a “classic midterm result” and partly blaming the Conservative MP who left the seat.

Victory in the marginal seat gave Labour a hat-trick from Thursday’s polls after it also won Manchester and Cardiff. The result added to Conservative woes after a very low turnout in the police and crime commissioner elections that were also held on Thursday.

Andy Sawford, the Labour candidate who won the Corby seat in Northamptonshire, said his victory was a “damning verdict on Cameron’s betrayal of the British people”.

Labour’s leader Ed Miliband appeared alongside Mr Sawford in Corby, saying the vote endorsed his new vision of the party – unveiled at Labour party conference in September – as a ‘One Nation’ party.

“This constituency is at the heart of our country and this constituency has sent a very clear message today,” he said. “It sent a message that it is putting its trust in a One Nation Labour party.”

But Conservatives said the vote – which the opposition party won by nearly 8,000 votes – did not measure up to their previous midterm victory before winning a general election, in 2008 in Crewe.

Mr Cameron said: “It’s a classic midterm result and obviously made difficult by the fact that the Conservative MP left the seat in question.’’

Louise Mensch resigned her seat in Corby, which she had won with a slim majority of a little less than 2,000, to spend more time with her family in New York. From 1997 to 2010, the Northamptonshire constituency had been held by Labour.

Earlier, the prime minister had pointed to the potential for Labour losses in mayoral and PCC elections.

“I think what is also emerging is that if Labour can’t win in places like Bristol and Hull, and even by-elections in Swindon and the middle of Wales, there is no enthusiasm for the alternative,” he said.

Labour won with a 7,724 majority – almost twice what it had forecast – but Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, said anything under an 11,000 majority in Corby would mean Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, was under pressure.

The United Kingdom Independence party took 5,188 votes, splitting the rightwing vote and pushing the Liberal Democrats into fourth place. The Lib Dems polled so few votes that they lost their deposit and demanded a last-minute recount.

Nigel Farage, Ukip leader, hailed the result as “our best by-election result ever” and said it showed the anti-European party had become “the third force in British politics”.

“Along with other results coming in from around the country today – including the 31 per cent we scored in a council by-election in Manchester – it confirms that we are now established as the third force in British politics,” he said on Friday.

Both parties of the coalition government suffered in Manchester, with the Conservative candidate, Matthew Sephton, losing his deposit after winning just 754 votes, less than 5 per cent of the turnout, while the swing away from the Lib Dems was 16.8 per cent.

Manchester Central and Cardiff South and Penarth were vacated by MPs who stood to be police and crime commissioners. Lucy Powell won in Manchester Central with 11,507 votes and Stephen Doughty became the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth with 9,193 votes.

The only mayoral election on Friday was the fly in the ointment for Labour, which lost a contest it was widely expected to win to the independent George Ferguson in Bristol.

Mr Ferguson, an architect and social entrepreneur, beat Labour’s Marvin Rees into second place by just over 6,000 votes on the second count.

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