By-election result: Ukip narrowly miss historic win in Heywood and Middleton as Labour cling on by 2% of vote

Ukip came within striking distance of snatching a historic victory last night, as Labour won the Heywood and Middleton by-election by just 2% of the vote.

John Bickley fell short of stealing the formerly-safe Labour seat meaning Ukip narrowly missed a double upset – as Tory defector Douglas Carswell stormed to victory in Clacton.

Rossendale Councillor Liz McInnes was elected as Heywood and Middleton’s new MP, but the surge of support for Ukip saw one of Labour’s safest seats transformed into one of its most marginal.

The result was announced after a night of dramatic twists and turns, as the Returning Officer granted Ukip’s request for a recount.

Rumours swept the hall that Ukip might have pulled off a shock victory, but McInnes crept to victory with only 600 votes between them.

While Labour won 41% of the vote, Ukip were close behind on 39% their best ever result in a Northern by-election.

VICTOR: Liz McInnes speaks to media after surviving a scare

McInnes, who worked as a clinical scientist at the Royal Oldham Hospital, has focused her campaign on protecting the National Health Service, and told MM this would likely be the first issue she raised in parliament.

She said: “I think my maiden speech will obviously include the National Health Service. I’ve worked for the NHS for 33 years and I know the sort of issues it’s facing at the moment.

“It’s a huge issue for Heywood and Middleton – what’s happening with the privatisation and the difficulty people are having with getting GP appointments, and concerns about our local hospitals. I think they would form the core part of my maiden speech to parliament.”

In her victory speech Ms McInnes said the result showed people in Heywood and Middleton ‘know only Labour would save the NHS’, and had given ‘their backing to Ed Miliband’s plans for an NHS with the time to care’.

However, her mention of the result as an endorsement of Ed Miliband drew loud laughter and jeers from Ukip activists in the hall.

Ukip Leader Nigel Farage had sought to raise the stakes for Miliband ahead of the by-election, saying if he lost the seat the Labour leader could be ‘gone by Christmas’ and predicting Ukip gains would send shockwaves through Westminster.

Farage said: “Winning the European elections was an earthquake. Clacton is a shift in the tectonic plates of British politics. And if we win in Heywood and Middleton, it will be Krakatoa.”

Bickley told MM: “Labour have a big problem because they shouldn’t even have to get out of bed to win a constituency like Heywood and Middleton.

“I didn’t really expect more than I got in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election (in which he took 18% of the vote), and of course it’s looking much more than that, so this is seismic.

“We’re ripping lumps out of the old Labour vote in the North because traditional Labour voters are completely disillusioned with the Labour Party.

“I’ve met so many people who have been life-long Labour supporters who wouldn’t normally give UKIP the time of day, but they feel betrayed by Labour. They’re cottoning on that Labour no longer represents them.”

NUMBERS GAME: Votes were counted until late in the night

Bickley claimed his high showing would be making Labour MPs very nervous, and said that some might even consider defecting to Ukip.

He said: “If you’re a Labour MP now in a marginal seat you’re going to be sleeping very uneasily because you’re going to be thinking ‘I’m next’.

“I’m fairly certain there are a number of Labour MPs who wouldn’t feel comfortable staying where they are right now.”

Bickley also confirmed to MM that he will seek to stand again in Heywood and Middleton next year.

He said: “I was always going to stand for Ukip in the 2015 election. As I’ve done very well in this constituency it would make sense for me to stand here.

“I need to talk to the local branch and go through the official processes before I can officially stand, but I certainly intend to fight this seat again.”

BICK BETWEEN HIS TEETH: John Bickley (l) speaks to Ukip members after a successful night

Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, paid tribute to McInnes, and said he was confident she would hold the constituency at next year’s election.

Perkins told MM: “I think we had a fantastic candidate who our supporters were really positive about.

“By-elections are always a dangerous beast and it’s a tribute to Liz that we’ve come through this one.

“Of course, our majority has fallen so we can’t be complacent. We’ll have to work hard to get into a position where we’ll increase the majority at the next General Election.”

Asked if he had a prediction for how many seats Ukip might win at the next election, MEP David Coburn was supremely confident about the party’s chances.

Coburn told MM: “I’d have more chance of giving you a prediction for the 2:30 at Doncaster, but since you ask I think Ukip will probably form a government or at the very least will hold the balance of power after the next election.”

Results: McInnes, Labour 11,633 (40.9%); Bickley, Ukip 11,016 (38.7%); Iain Gartside, Conservatives 3,496 (12.3%); Anthony Smith, Liberal Democrats 1,475 (5.1%): Abi Jackson, Green Party, 870 (3.1%)

Turnout: 28,472 (36.02%).

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