LABOUR’S Sarah Champion has become Rotherham’s first female MP with a resounding victory in the town’s by-election, writes Richard Marsden.
The poll was triggered after the resignation of former Labour minister Denis MacShane over dishonest expenses claims.
Ms Champion, formerly chief executive of Bluebell Wood, North Anston, received 9,966 of 21,330 votes cast, on a 33.63 per cent turnout - giving her a 5,218 majority.
Second-place were UKIP, whose candidate Jane Collins received 4,648 votes. Their presence in the town had been boosted with controversy over UKIP-supporting foster parents having children removed by the Labour-controlled council over their political views.
The Lib Dems lost their deposit, candidate Michael Beckett receiving just 451 votes, and the Tories’ Simon Wilson only narrowly avoided a similar fate, polling 1,157.
Ms Champion, who entered the count at the Magna Centre to applause, said: “Thank you to the people of Rotherham for putting your trust in me. Today’s Labour Party are on the side of the British people. Cameron’s Tories have shown what they think of Rotherham, now the people of Rotherham have shown what they think of the Tories.”
She added: “For the last four years I have been extremely proud to run Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.”
Ms Champion said she was not a career politician and will serve ‘not for what I can get out of it but what I can put into it’.
UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, said: “This is our best-ever result at a by-election, while coalition is in serious trouble. What’s beginning to emerge in Northern England is that we are seeing UKIP as the second party.
“The vast majority of people in the North resent the £50 million a day being paid to the European Union and are worried about issues such as high domestic energy bills and the amount of money they are having to pay towards projects such as windfarms.
“Our message is common sense and people like that.”
Labour representatives - who lacked any senior party figures - were ‘pleasantly’ surprised with their result, Ms Champion taking a slightly larger share of the vote than Mr MacShane at the 2010 General Election.
Ms Champion’s share of the vote was 46.25 per cent, compared with 44.6 per cent won by Mr MacShane on a 59 per cent turnout in 2010.
UKIP’s share of the yesterday’s vote was 21.79 per cent, up from 5.9 per cent in 2010.
Labour had been beset by problems ranging Mr MacShane’s actions to anger at selection of a candidate from outside the constituency - Ms Champion lives in Dronfield - and the case of the foster parents.
The British National Party narrowly came third with candidate Marlene Guest taking 1,804 votes, or 8.46 per cent, of votes, and Respect were fourth, with former journalist Yvonne Ridley receiving 1,778 votes, or 8.34 per cent.
Neither the Tories, who came fifth, or Lib Dems - who were eighth of 11 candidates and were even beaten by a former member David Wildgoose who was sixth, polling 703 for the English Democrats - had run a full campaign whereas Labour, UKIP, the BNP and Respect had been out heavily around the constituency.
Mrs Guest, the BNP candidate, said her party’s support had been close to that in 2010, when she took 10.4 per cent of votes, because ‘people are frightened’ about immigrants in the town.
Respect had been hoping for a second seat, capitalising upon anger in Rotherham’s Asian community about lack of selection of Mahroof Hussain, a Labour councillor who had been tipped to stand for the seat.
Rotherham’s Labour council leader Coun Roger Stone said: “It’s a fantastic result. It was always going to be difficult, particularly because we hadn’t chosen a local candidate. UKIP had done quite well in the most recent local elections - taking support from disaffected Conservatives.
“I don’t think their votes are on the back of the foster carers case, which is nothing to do with the election.”
Sarah Champion (Lab) 9,866 (46.25%, +1.62%)
Jane Collins (Ukip) 4,648 (21.79%, +15.87%)
Marlene Guest (BNP) 1,804 (8.46%, -1.96%)
Yvonne Ridley (Respect) 1,778 (8.34%)
Simon Wilson (C) 1,157 (5.42%, -11.32%)
David Wildgoose (Eng Dem) 703 (3.30%)
Simon Copley (Ind) 582 (2.73%, -3.58%)
Michael Beckett (LD) 451 (2.11%, -13.87%)
Ralph Dyson (TUSC) 261 (1.22%)
Paul Dickson (Ind) 51 (0.24%)
Clint Bristow (ND) 29 (0.14%)
Lab maj 5,218 (24.46%)
7.13% swing Lab to UKIP
Electorate 63,420; Turnout 21,330 (33.63%, -25.37%)
2010: Lab maj 10,462 (27.89%) - Turnout 37,506 (59.00%)
MacShane (Lab) 16,741 (44.64%); Whiteley (C) 6,279 (16.74%); Taylor
(LD) 5,994 (15.98%); Guest (BNP) 3,906 (10.41%); Thirlwall (Ind)
2,366 (6.31%); Vines (Ukip) 2,220 (5.92%)