Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Coming for Cameron? Poor Showing in Bellwether Vote Rattles Conservatives

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Coming for Cameron? Poor Showing in Bellwether Vote Rattles Conservatives

Article excerpt

Britain awoke Friday to the sound of political knives being sharpened for the prime minister, David Cameron, after a win for his Liberal Democrat coalition partners in a bellwether parliamentary by- election that consigned Mr. Cameron's Conservative Party to third place.

The overnight victory by the Lib Dems in the southern English constituency of Eastleigh vacated by one of their own after a personal scandal over speeding forced him to resign as an MP and minister gives hope to the centrist party that it can avoid a meltdown in the 2015 election at the hands of voters angered by the governments austerity agenda.

But in many ways the Lib Dem win was overshadowed by the close second-place finish of the anti-Europe United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The Conservatives had held early hopes of taking Eastleigh to bolster their prospects in 2015; the Tories have never won a majority in a general election without winning Eastleigh.

But UKIP, the upstart rival to the Conservatives, has long been seeking to outflank Britains main right-of-center force on immigration and anti-European rhetoric, and last night emerged ahead of the opposition Labour Party as the vehicle of choice for protest voters.

The Conservatives failed here because traditional Tory voters look at Cameron and ask themselves: Is he a Conservative? And they conclude, no, he is not, UKIPs leader, Nigel Farage, told the BBC Friday, after a result that was predicted to increase discontentment in the Conservative Party about its leadership.

He is talking," he added, "about gay marriage, wind turbines, unlimited immigration from India, he wants Turkey to join the EU.

The seat, formerly held by the disgraced ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne, was won by a local Liberal Democrat town councillor, Mike Thornton, with 32.1 percent of the vote. UKIP, which wants to take the UK out of the European Union, took 27.8 percent, ahead of the Conservative candidate, who won 25.4 percent. …

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