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Dorset Tories: Eastleigh result will have no effect on 2015 election
3:30pm Friday 1st March 2013 in News
BOURNEMOUTH East Tory MP Tobias Ellwood today described the Eastleigh by-election result as “disappointing” but insisted it was “a massive protest vote.”
The Conservatives were beaten into third place by UKIP as the Lib Dems held on to the seat. Read all about it here.
He said: “Obviously it is disappointing, but there is a history of disappointing results in by-elections. We need to look no further than Christchurch.
“But we need to reflect on why many Conservatives stayed at home or gave their support to other parties. There is a lot of pain being felt and the government is being punished; we need to listen on issues such as immigration although we are now finally coming out with a more robust message on Europe.
“By-elections need to be taken as standalone snapshots, rather than a prediction of what is to come in the future at general elections.
“UKip claim there are four million Bulgarians coming to Britain when there are only seven million here in the first place. If they want to be taken seriously their policies will come under greater scrutiny. You can say very popular things when you are in opposition and you know your manifesto is not going to be tested.”
He added: “While we need to reflect I think we need to remain committed to making difficult decisions to get the economy back into order.”
Poole MP Robert Syms said the Eastleigh by-election result was: “People just showing they are a bit frustrated. We have a big job to do, it's taking a long time and will take a long time. People get a bit fed up with the government. They still understand why we are doing what we are doing.”
The assistant government whip said the combined vote of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives was over 50 per cent, proving people were still voting for the coalition government.
With Conservatives pushed into third place by UKIP he said: “It was a good result for them. But they don't have a single seat in the House of Commons. They have taken the role that Liberal Democrats had before they were in government, of the protest party.”
He said by-elections were a “free hit” and had little bearing on what would happen in a general election.
“We don't want to be complacent in government. It's certainly a shot across the bows. We have got to do a better job of explaining what we are trying to do.”
Annette Brooke, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. What it shows for us is we’re working really well on the ground and we have been successful, even in very difficult circumstances. The public like our approach within constituencies. We are very hands on with local issues.”
She said the Lib Dems and their Tory coalition partners, who were knocked into third place, had to “fight it out on their own merits,”
“There will be some change in the dynamic of the coalition I’m sure,” she added.
“For all the things I don’t like, as people know, I believe in the coalition, I believe in its necessity for economic stability.”
She said there would have been “more damage” to the coalition had the Liberal Democrats, who were defending the seat, lost it, but added: “There was always going to be a winner and a loser here within the coalition.”
Bournemouth West Tory MP Conor Burns said: “I’m not surprised by the result or that UKip has done so well because I made 14 visits to Eastleigh during the by-election campaign.
“I picked up a real desire to send out a message that people are frustrated and feeling the pain. They want the government to listen; I think it was a protest vote but we would do well to listen. Anyone who dismissed this result is very foolish.
“This is a clarion call to all of us to get out more, listen more and become more involved in our local communities. People’s living standards are being squeezed and we must ensure that people’s bills do not rise, in these difficult times. I will be looking to the Chancellor to make a cost of living budget.”
The Eastleigh result is in no small part a consequence of withered local organisation caused by an absence of Council leadership or vision— Conor Burns MP (@Conor_BurnsMP) March 1, 2013
But South Dorset Conservative MP Richard Drax said he wanted Cameron to learn a lesson from the by-election.
He said: “I'm not at all surprised by the result. I've always felt that when party puts strategy before principle, voters tend to see straight through it.
“I would like to see our party act in a more Conservative way. What I mean by that is by tackling the big issues rather than tinkering at the edges.”
Mr Drax believes immigration is not coming down far enough and the European Union referendum, pledged by David Cameron if Conservatives are in Government following the next general election, is not enough.
He added: “I have, along with other colleagues, put forward a motion that we ought to have some legislation in this Parliament that would tie a future Government into having such a vote.
“We need to act and stop talking, but that is not to say the Government is not acting to tackle many problems. It is. But I just worry voters want Governments to do what they voted them in to do. They want politicians to be principled; they are fed up with spin and rhetoric.”
However, the Conservative MP also suggested mid-term blues could also explain the unprecedented UKIP result.
“Governments in power traditionally get a bit of a hammering mid-term”, he said. “But this doesn't mean we should be complacent.”