Lib Dems humiliated in Barnsley election
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg today insisted he would not be knocked off course by his party's "kicking" in yesterday's Barnsley Central by-election, when they finished sixth behind Ukip and the British National Party.
Mr Clegg warned critics not to "write off" the Liberal Democrats on the basis of a vote in a safe Labour seat on a low turn-out.
But the Lib Dem leader is certain to come under pressure from his own party for a change in direction after one of the most humiliating results they have suffered in decades.
Labour cruised as expected to a resounding victory in a seat vacated by the resignation of their former MP Eric Illsley, jailed last month for expenses fraud.
Newly-elected MP Dan Jarvis, a former army major, increased Labour's majority from 11,093 to 11,771 (60.8%), on a turnout of just 36.5%.
The Lib Dems' vote share tumbled from 17.28% to just 4.18%, and their Conservative coalition partner's from 17.26% to 8.25%, as the UK Independence Party claimed second place.
Lib Dem candidate Dominic Carman, who lost his deposit, said: "The voters here in Barnsley have given me and the Liberal Democrats a kicking. We can take it."
In a brief appearance before the TV cameras today, Mr Clegg said: "The result in the by-election last night was obviously a bad result for the Liberal Democrats."
He added: "I have no doubt that people will try to use this single result to write off the Liberal Democrats. They have done it in the past and we have proved them wrong and we will prove them wrong again.
"In Government, we will continue to do what I think is absolutely vital for the long-term benefit of the country - namely sort out the economic mess we inherited from Labour for the long-term benefit of the country."
Mr Clegg made clear he believes his candidate had never stood a chance: "The truth is that it was a no-contest for any non-Labour candidate.
"It was a very safe Labour seat. Labour got a huge majority on an abysmally low turnout. Everybody else was left to pick up the pieces."