Belfast Telegraph

PM defiant despite damaging defeat

By Staff Reporter

David Cameron has vowed to win back Rochester and Strood for the Conservatives after they suffered their second damaging by-election defeat at the hands of Ukip in the space of six weeks.

Amid jubilant scenes, Tory defector Mark Reckless - who stood down in order to trigger the showdown with his former party - regained the Kent seat with a majority of 2,920.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he would be "very surprised" if more Tory MPs did not now choose to jump ship and join his party in the run-up to the general election next year.

The result was another wounding blow for Mr Cameron, following the victory of Mr Reckless' fellow Conservative defector Douglas Carswell in Clacton, Essex.

Mr Cameron said: "I am absolutely determined to win this seat back at the next general election because anything other than a Conservative government will put our recovery at risk and Ed Miliband in Downing Street. I am more determined than ever to deliver security for Britain."

However, Mr Carswell predicted the party could win "dozens" more seats.

Writing on the Daily Telegraph website, Mr Carswell said: "If Ukip can win in Rochester, the 271st most Ukip-friendly seat in the country, Ukip can win in dozens of other seats too."

Ukip's victory in Rochester showed that, by appealing directly to ex-Labour voters, the party has an opportunity to "undo the tragedy of the 1920s", when Labour became the second party of British politics, he said.

"So much of Britain is now run in the interests of various vested interests, there is an extraordinary opportunity for a new, free market, economically liberal party committed to far-reaching, radical political reform," said Mr Carswell.

"Think of it as Gladstone dotcom."

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was "furious" about the controversial tweet sent by Emily Thornberry while out campaigning in the by-election and admitted Labour must "learn the wider lessons" of the poll result.

The shadow attorney general apologised for the message, which showed a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside.

Ukip said she had "sneered, and looked down her nose at a white van in Strood with the cross of St George on it".

Lucy Powell, vice-chairman of Labour's general election campaign, told Channel 4 News: "Emily Thornberry took a very disrespectful and rude picture when she was out campaigning in Rochester yesterday.

"It was a mistake, it was something that she has resigned over and it's right that she's done that."

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