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UKIP’s Reckless wins Rochester and Strood by-election

UKIP has secured its second elected MP at Westminster after Mark Reckless won yesterday’s Rochester and Strood by-election. 

Despite the Conservative party promising to “throw the kitchen sink” at the by-election to win the seat, and the PM, David Cameron, visiting the constituency five times during the campaign, UKIP won the seat by nearly 3,000 votes. 

Reckless took 16,867 votes, ahead of Conservative Kelly Tolhurst’s 13,947, with Labour's Naushabah Khan on 6,713 – ahead of the Green Party. The Lib Dems came fifth with their lowest vote total in a by-election. 

The former Conservative MP, who defected to UKIP in September, said his victory in the 271st target seat of the anti-immigration party was proof that UKIP could “win seats across the country”. 

“Whichever constituency, whatever your former party allegiance, think of what it would mean to have a bloc of UKIP MPs at Westminster large enough to hold the balance of power,” he said. “If you believe that the world is bigger than Europe, if you believe in an independent Britain, then come with us and we will give you back your country.” 

Labour said its vote was squeezed by the other two parties, while the Liberal Democrats candidate, Geoff Juby, lost his deposit. 

Rochester and Strood was regarded as much tougher territory for UKIP to win than Clacton in Essex, where the party’s first MP, Douglas Carswell, another Tory defector, won last month.

 Emily Thornberry

Labour’s polling day, however, was overshadowed due to one of its senior MPs, Emily Thornberry, resigning from the shadow cabinet over accusations that her tweet of a Rochester house draped in St George’s flags showed snobbery against her party’s traditional working-class voters. 

The shadow attorney general apologised for the message, but has resigned from the Labour front bench. 

Despite the Conservatives losing the by-election, David Cameron was in a defiant mood saying: “This result was closer than the forecasters predicted. 

“I am absolutely determined to win this seat back because absolutely anything other than a Conservative government will put our recovery at risk and mean Ed Miliband in Downing Street.” 

But UKIP leader Nigel Farage denied the result was simply a protest vote against the government, or that voters would return to the larger parties in the general election.

He said the message of Rochester and Strood was: “If you vote UKIP, you get UKIP” and “people out there who vote UKIP intend to stay UKIP”. 

Reckless has also further unsettled the Tories with claims that other members of his former party are considering making the switch. 

(Image: c. Gareth Fuller)

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